Kenyan based Yusudi enabling youth to find their personal purpose

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Yusudi is an amalgamation of two words: “Y” stands for Youth, and “Kusudi” stands for Purpose (from Swahili). Yusudi is a social entreprise that focuses on developing skills in students and recent graduates. Yusudi strives to tackle the issue of unemployment by eliciting a growth mindset in youth, and developing job seekers and job creators that take responsibility and ownership over their personal and professional future. Their main vision is to give young people the ability to have a fulfilling job that will support economic and social growth, a goal they can be attained through closing the gap between university education and skills required to be successful in the workplace.

Briefly tell us about yourselves, your educational background, team and how they came together to form Yusudi
Yusudi was founded by two young entrepreneurs, Charlotte De Ridder and Nastia Gutsol from Belgium and Ukraine respectively. They have been involved with youth programs both locally and internationally and are passionate about youth empowerment and entrepreneurship. They have had a passion for education since childhood, and realized that formal education does not satisfy the needs of 21st century societies. Now, being in their 20s, they are going through the process of self-discovery, and the challenges it implies. They find this time to be integral to personality forming, which ultimately becomes a platform for action and societal change. They believe that there is a vast creative potential in every human. Youth have energy; they look for a purpose and place to apply it, but often do not know the steps to reach it. They are creating a tool enabling youth, like ourselves, to envision the future and to design a personal learning/career path to reach it.

Charlotte is the Managing Director of Yusudi. Prior to that she headed the Talent Management team of AIESEC in Mexico, creating strategies for over 3000 members nationwide. She also spear-headed the Marketing department of AIESEC UK as the first VP of Marketing and Communication. She has over 7 years of experience in strategic roles in youth organizations across the world.

Nastia is the Director of Programs and has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Kyiv National Linguistics University. For over 10 years now, Nastia has acquired diverse expertise in entrepreneurship and learning design across cultures in leadership positions in NGOs and consulting for-profit companies. Nastia has developed and implemented national growth strategies for AIESEC Mexico involving over 3000 members and earning AIESEC Global Excellence Award. She has also worked with impact projects in IFC (World Bank Group) in Ukraine.

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How would you describe your company; how does it work and make money?
Yusudi is a social enterprise that aims to bridge the gap between education and the labour market by developing entrepreneurial skills and life/work skills in youths. We train and equip both students and recent graduates with hands on skills that will help them strive either as employees or employers. All this is aimed at reducing the youth unemployment in the country and beyond. The program takes 5 months where the first 5 week involves classroom training/coaching on various work and personal skills such as Emotional Intelligence, Effective communication, Work Ethics, Interviewing Skills, Self-awareness Sessions, Entrepreneurship, career planning and but not limited to Networking. This makes them to be highly employable.

The 5 weeks of training is followed by an internship period where the trainees are placed in preselected SMEs/companies as paid interns for a period of not less than 4 months. The trainee is also assigned a personal coach to guide and mentor him/her throughout the internship period. We collaborate with various companies to provide a hands-on experience to the youths. This in turn helps the companies to leverage on the talents of the interns and save on resources

The program offers a flexible cost plan. The total cost is 42,000 shillings which is split between a 10,000 shillings initial payment and then a commission taken on intern stipends once they are placed.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
1. The problem of relevance of youth skills to the labour market
Kenya is hit with a young unemployment rate of about 40% linked to the lack of quality education and alignment with the labour market. On the other hand SMEs are also struggling to find entry-level talent that can fit their need as they consider youth to be “half-baked”. There is a need to provide quality skills and entrepreneurship training to youth to enable them to become active participants in the labour market.
2. The lack of access to modern, holistic “youth-friendly” skills training
There is growing access to technology worldwide and more and more learning opportunities. However, the area of work readiness and capacity building is still majoritarily taken away from the digital equation. Adding the digital component would enable many more youth, especially marginalized youth to get opportunities for integrating themselves in the labour market.

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How has uptake been like since you launched?
Yusudi has a team of 14 employees and has trained over 500 students in the last two years of creation. Of the 500 people, 80% got placed, and 65% of them got employed after the end of their internship. We have worked with over 100 local SMEs who became our intern-takers.

Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
The Kenyan Government has youth funds such as the UWEZO fund and Youth Enterprise Development fund that support entrepreneurship growth and funding of project linked to youth development. The Government also focuses on encouraging industry to give practical skills to youth by providing companies with tax exemption when taking more than 10 student interns. Furthermore in September 2016, the Government passed a bill to create a youth employment institution that would support youth in finding work.
Our indirect competition stems from a national and international focus on youth development linked to the rising concern of youth unemployment. This has led to various types of investments such as:
• International Aid to support youth programs:
There are some key multinational organisations that are investing in youth development programs. The two most prominent ones are McKinsey and the World Bank as their impact model is very similar to ours. They train youth and then place them in their partner organisations. These organisations are supported by the UN and the Government, which aim to achieve impact in the area. However, currently their target is high school leavers only, and financial institutions or big corporations and the placement partners.
• Career accelerators
Platforms such as DumaWorks, Fuzu and KamaKazi offer direct access to employment with limited skills training.
• Student societies
Societies such as AIESEC, MUN, and Rotaract provide students with experiential training and learning, which prepare students to work environment.
Our direct competition are organisations that target the exact same market with solutions that can also provide skills development for the youth such as YALI, Amani Institute.

Our main advantage stems from our combination of high intensity and affordability. These enables us to attract a more diverse group of youth with less limitation caused by their economic background.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
There are two key challenges that we faced since inception:
1. Building credibility. When you are an unknown service, you need to find the correct way to make people believe in what you create and truly see the value of what they are paying for. With training, people often undermine the amount of costs that goes into providing quality training so it is important to build enough credibility in the quality of it and build up slowly.
2. Finding people that believe in your vision and are willing to put time and effort to make it work. When we started we didn’t have any external investment and it took us a few months before we had enough money to cover staff salaries. We had to find volunteers that were willing to invest into working with us in exchange for the learning and growth we could provide them. There were very few people that were willing to take that risks but interestingly the people that did are currently some of our most committed and highest level employees.

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What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
1. When coming up with any idea, it is not about you. It is about your customer and therefore any idea needs to be create with a deep understanding of you potential customer. You need to really investment in research and immersion into your customer’s world to create something that will be willing to pay for.
2. Be resilient. When you create a company, success doesn’t come overnight and you need to work hard to get there. A lot of people easily shift ideas whenever something more lucrative comes up or there is no direct success. Be sure in what you believe in and when you do, be resilient and stick through the hard times.
3. Use your resourcefulness and your network when starting up. You might not have money but you can start by create in-kind partnership and trading what you are good at with what someone else is. Maybe you know a lawyer that can help you with your registration and in exchange you can help with some professional photos (this depends what you are good at). Get volunteers and trade learning and development for their time supporting the growth of your company. There are so many ways in which you can be resourceful and that will be your chance to make it a reality.