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How the New Business Challenge changes lifes

by Emmanuel Adu-Darko, Participant 2016

Whilst preparing to participate in the New Business Challenge 2016, honestly, I did not really recognise what an awesome opportunity it was. I was just looking for a chance to travel outside Ghana, and I mean to any of the world’s romantic countries — and I did not really care for what; it just had to be fun. I was also not really bothered about whether it was going to be in the city or the hinterlands. At the time I would have been as happier about the opportunity if it was a mere free vacation trip to Singapore or even Chile.

All I knew was that I had been disappointed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (London Office) after making it through to the very last interview, I had lost the Most Influential Student Award, something I worked so hard for. And on top of that, I had (woefully) lost the Students’ Representative Council Presidency to someone else, having invested so much academically-valuable time, resources, and made significant emotional deposits; so I just needed some time off, at least to get my empty passport stamped for the first time.

However, my vague, near-silly expectations were excelled or otherwise, “disappointed” by a well-structured, impact-driven New Business Challenge.

(And don’t get me wrong: IT WAS FUN!). The shocks began at the Kickoff. Everybody was just so good! I so wasn’t sure how our inchoate ideas were going to make it through. Frankly, I did not know what feedback to expect, I only prayed my team receives a call.

Which we did!

And we really did receive a call; the one call that will change the course of my professional life forever. And this was more than just some time off or some sort of cross country challenge for undergrads; it was an incubator for birthing in me a more confident, creative, intellectually curious and refined Emmanuel. I bet this quote by former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli made a lot more sense,

“To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is the first step to knowledge.”

I like to read, but I had never heard about Business Model Canvas. I knew about stakeholders, but only theoretically. Together with my team, we were able to enlist and convince significant stakeholders such as the Ghana Education Service to partner with Maxim Nyansa for its IT for underprivileged schools project. For the first time, I pitched an idea to a corporate audience, and played a team member role instead of the team leader; a role I have always enjoyed.

Having gone through such a fulfilling training, I was wired to go for the next big thing. It was to have a corporate internship, and I had it with one of GNBCC’s partners, Ecom: a multinational enterprise. I have gone on to intern with Goldman Sachs in London and PricewaterhouseCoopers in Accra. Applying to all these places, I have flooded my cover letters with stories of how in a transcultural team we developed a technically and financially sustainable business model for Maxim Nyansa and how the New Business Challenge taught me to work for long hours.

Ultimately, I have founded my own organisation, Emmanuel Success School; a social enterprise which focuses on youth development (including career and leadership), mentorship, and academic excellence through organising training programmes, seminars and workshops. Through Emmanuel Success School, I have mentored about 25 students and trained about 400 students across high schools and universities, both in Ghana and Kenya.

In the end, I will always pride myself over having helped Maxim Nyansa fix some of its toughest problems.

I will always be glad that there was something called New Business Challenge in my time!