I got involved with JA in February 2016. Our ward youth development officer working under the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment informed me that JA will be conducting a Life Skills Training program targeting youth in or aspiring to be in business. My registered business – MacJohnson Apiaries Private Business Corporation – was still at its infancy and by business skills were severely limited. I dived for the opportunity by registering at once for the programme.
The highlight of my JA experience was brainstorming – identifying business opportunities in our locality: creativity, innovation, teamwork, developing and sharpening interpersonal skills. This was later seamlessly infused with financial literacy skills training.
My JA experience taught me that challenges are to be solved and not lamented over. As a young person, my imagination is a goldmine for creative business solutions and innovative products. Creating a network of rewarding relationships and habitually sharpening my interpersonal skills broaden my business prospects.
I vividly remember the day Rachel (our trainer), came to me during a health break. She looked straight into my eyes and said, “Ishmael, there is a great businessman in you, your product knowledge and confidence is exceptional!” Looking back, I realise how important it was to believe in someone’s positive belief in myself until my own positive belief in myself and my business kicked in.
Since my JA training I have participated in various exhibitions and my business, whose main objects is production and retail of bee, orchard and plantation related products and services, has scooped a total of twelve top beekeeping awards within the past 16 months owing to my unique, creative and innovative business prowess. I even travelled to Mozambique, where I led other young beekeepers. It is humbling to experience the joy of developing young leaders who will also have a positive influence and impact in their and other communities. Nothing beats the comfort of living with the knowledge that my unique and exceptional skills and products are in demand internationally.
My JA experience changed me from being an introvert into an extrovert, from being reactive into being proactive. Now I am learning and teaching in a new language – Portuguese. My new passport is boldly written on the profession column – APICULTURIST. Yes, that is who I am and shall be.
I am driven by an insatiable desire not merely to meet our customer needs and wants, but to amaze them with the quality of our products and services. I derive inspiration from people who live their creeds like Les Brown, T.D. Jakes, Strive Masiyiwa, the late Myles Munroe and from a number of African women who have climbed business and philanthropic corporate ladders. I find Robert Kiyosaki’s books enriching. I am an avid follower of Strive Masiyiwa’s Facebook page, whereon he regularly shares applicable business nuggets.
My advice to other young Africans is that the grass always appears greener on the other side, but with intensive watering, you can turn your own current surroundings into a green financial garden which those near and far can marvel at. Lucrative opportunities often present themselves disguised as seemingly insurmountable challenges. It takes creative and innovative problem-solvers to unmask and reap serious dividends out of such widespread yet disguised opportunities right across Africa.