Entrepreneurs.ng caught up with Raymond Okpani of Youthspark Pan Africa recently. Okpani has been breaking grounds and taking the bull by the horn in the social entrepreneurial space.
As our custom is when we discover passionate entrepreneurs, we reach out to them to tell their stories. We know that entrepreneurship is indeed a challenging journey. Therefore, getting to know people who are doing exploits across different industries give us the needed motivation to continue the entrepreneurial journey.
So, fasten your seat belt while we take a ride with Raymond Okpani.
Background of Raymond Okpani
“My name is Raymond Okpani and I am a social entrepreneur, an international speaker, a human capital development expert and the founder of Youthspark Pan Africa.
Earlier in September, I celebrated my 3rd decade on earth. I have a background in sciences but I have acquired more knowledge outside school than I have done within the school environment.
By God’s grace, the last 10 years of my life gave me a platform to acquire massive work experience spanning across the private, government and non-governmental sectors.
I spent 2 years working in the hospitality industry and then moved to another state where I served for 6 years including serving in the capacity of a Special Assistant to the Head of Civil Service at 22 years.
I started my NGO journey as a volunteer in 2009 and eventually started my personal journey in 2015 when I got passionate about advocating for a goal-driven and problem-solving youth community.”
“Well, my growing up was completely different from my peers but one thing I still remember clearly which has been a great reminder and influence is my fathers principled life. He made sure we had what we needed according to his capacity but he will never compromise just to satisfy us. It was a big influence to my upbringing.”
Why Did You Choose Social Entrepreneurship – Youthspark Pan Africa
“Well, I didn’t know I will be here because all I wanted was to study medicine, become a doctor and contribute to quality healthcare in my community.
But, after acquiring massive experiences across various sectors, I couldn’t help it when I discovered that young people are the core custodian of solutions in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, many people especially young people are just living without solving one single problem. Hence, I decided to use my life story and experiences to build a platform that challenges youth to take more responsibilities for their actions.”
Do You Have Any Mentor?
“Yes Yes Yes….. I have got mentors who have literally taken my hands and showed me the WHATs, the HOWs and given me the WHYs. All I did was to be clear about my internal conviction, believe them and take action.
I remember meeting Dr Myles Munroe twice during his lifetime when he called me one of those days and said to me, “Raymond, be a man of vision”. It has never left me till today and will never.
I can spend my last savings to gain access to mentors that will influence my life and work. I have mentors I follow online consistently and I also have mentors that I get to meet physically to hear my story and direct me properly.”
Tell us about Youthspark Pan Africa.
“Well, I have done a lot of youth development interventions through Raise A Youth Foundation, the first organization I founded back in 2013. But the idea and vision of Youthspark Pan Africa started as an obsession to contribute to positive youth development with focus on youth leadership in 2015.
It was initially designed to be a secondary school intervention to curbing social vices and promoting impactful leadership ethics among students. In 2017, while I was working on a Youthspark Students Project with few people, I met someone who gave me 1 million reasons why the project was not possible. And I gave up on the project.
It took me 3-4 months of fighting discouragement and lack of support to get back on the project. This time, I decided to fail big and forward with the project. So I modified every component of the project and decided to launch the Youthspark Pan African Conference outside the country.
It was a crazy decision because only a few persons believed my drive but the rest thought I was crazy and over-ambitious but I never bothered.
In the first 11 months, we successfully organized and hosted 3 international conferences in 3 different countries (Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda) across 2 African regions.
So far, the platform has been able to connect and provide networking & business development opportunities to over 1300 entrepreneurs across Africa.”
Youthspark Pan Africa In 5 years And The Role You Intend To Play
“Basically, the future is hard to predict. But in 5 years, I am envisioning Youthspark Pan Africa to be the foremost youth organization championing a community of youths that are identifying and solving critical social problems using the most innovative approach.”
Tell Us How You Have Leveraged Technology In Your Business.
“Let me first say that the technology industry is a world of its own. And a huge platform for growing successful initiatives, projects or businesses. It wouldn’t have been possible to organize 3 international conferences without any support or sponsorship if there was no technology and the advantages it comes with. As at today, we have a network of over 2000 youths who have visited, accessed or participated in either our online or offline programs.”
How Have You Been Able To Sustain Your Business In Terms Of Financing?
“When I started this journey, nobody believed me and the few that believed me didn’t have money to support. So I was faced with the pressure of personally financing all my projects and initiatives. However, I have got some support from a few friends who really believe and stood with me during the trail moments. Today, they are proud of the result we have produced through their support.”
Any Decisions You Took With Youthspark Pan Africa That You Wish You Did Differently?
“I believe that every decision I have taken in the past were the best decisions based on the information that was available to me at the time. If I had a different orientation, maybe I would have made a different decision.
I don’t regret anything because I don’t regret the level I have gotten to so far. I hope to get better and make the best use of every resources available to be more productive in my field.”
How Does Youthspark Pan Africa Give Back To The Society?
“My organization is basically a non-profit NGO hence the core objective of our everyday activity is to identify and solve social problems.”
Other Business Interest Asides Youthspark Pan Africa.
“Let me surprise you a bit….. I was born and brought up in one of the major business hubs in Nigeria, Aba, Abia State. But I never opened my mind to embrace and take business seriously while growing up. I just wanted to go to school and study. Today, I am working so hard to build a business mindset. But I have come to take major interest in importation business but I want to undergo strategic training before I launch into the business.”
Advice For Someone Starting Out A Business In Your Field
“Starting a business today has become so competitive and requires a great touch of innovation and unique selling proposition. I’m talking about standing out in the midst of the crowd and still get heard.
I advise that anyone who wants to start a business must first be ready to go through the learning process. You don’t venture into business because you have money or because others are making money in a particular business.”
What Is Your Greatest Achievement So Far? Any awards?
“I count my achievements not by the number of awards but by the number of persons whose lives were transformed as a result of meeting me, attending my programs or even through social media.
One of the things I consider a great achievement was my courage to pick-up my locally rejected youth project and transforming it into an internationally accepted platform. I remember someone said it will never work in my community. But it eventually worked in 3 countries and has eventually happened in the same community it was first rejected without any support.”
Advice For Budding And Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“I strongly believe that clarity influences speed. My advice is that aspiring entrepreneurs should not be in a hurry to launch out. They should try and understand the specific problem they are targeting to solve. Because the need of people and their environment are constantly changing. Hence, they should master dynamic strategies that can sustain the solutions they are providing. And much more, they must be flexible enough to adjust and modify their models if it is beginning to hit the rock.”
Tell Us What Your Typical Day Look like
“My typical day is completely programmed with activities. Basically, I sleep less than 5 hours daily. I wake up, pray, read a book very early in the morning. Afterwards, I listen to at least 2 motivational videos to set my day and build a positive energy. Finally, I develop an action plan of all my activities for the day including important phone calls to make. I can be that detailed.”
How Do You Unwind?
“I visit new places, listen to motivation audios and read. And sometimes, I make out time to hang out with close friends.
Romantic Relationship Status.
“I would rather not talk about my previous experiences. I am currently single and very much available to build friendship.”
Raymond Okpani Quotes
“The opportunity to connect and network with positive minded and enthusiastic people is an experience I look forward to everyday. “
“In life, success is copy and paste. Success is not a strange or accidental factor. It is simply principles duplicated.”
“It’s important to always know what is driving your actions. The people who eventually succeed in life are driven by their vision and goals.”
“Success does not flow into vacuum; it flows into capacity. When capacity is built, speed becomes inevitable”
“Nothing limits achievement like small thinking and Nothing expands possibilities like unleashed imagination.”
“Here is the thing; If you give up on your dreams, what do you have left? NOTHING.”
“The battle only lies in your mind….. You should wake up ready for war, to fight against distraction, procrastination, excuses. Stop hiding your gift because of the fear of what others will think about you.”
“Loving what you do gives you an invisible feeling. If you don’t love the process, then you should find something else.”
“If you are waiting for tomorrow, your goal is not a priority.”
“Wishing is not enough; people wish all the time.”