Why have I quit my job for this cause ?
I am an MBA graduate from Butler University, Indianapolis since 2005. After graduation, I worked 2 years in the US and then got an executive job in Toronto, Canada as a Budget Director.
After the Ivory Coast civil war in 2011, I decided to travel back their for a visit since I am a native from the country. At this time, I was far from guessing how much impact this trip would have on my entire life.
Right from the first days there, I met many old friends and relatives 33 years old and more who never had a first job. The luckiest were still leaving with their parents while most of them were leaving in ghettos fighting every day to get something to eat. This was a real shock for me, since some of them were very good student back in undergrad classes. They all had at least undergraduate degrees, some in management, others in sales, computer science, finance and so on. But nobody gave them a chance to start a job somewhere. After 2 weeks, I realized how general this situation was. Many young qualified men and women couldn't find a job because of lack of employment. I also realized I was lucky to be living in Canada, holding an executive job in a major company at such a young age. Hadn’t I been in Canada, I would have most likely ended up in the same situation.
I went back to Canada after 3 weeks but couldn't get this out of my mind. I left like I should do something to help them. After 3 months, I decided to move back to Ivory Coast. With the help of god, I was able to find a job back in Ivory Coast while being in Canada. I was hired as an executive for an Ivorian bank. The salary was less than what I used to earn in Canada, but I could leave with it.
I started this new job in February 2013, but being 100% in what I do, I quickly lost sight of the reasons that brought me back to the country. I worked long hours as usual, from 7 to 11 PM most to the time.
I had to wait until the middle of 2014, while visiting one of our main clients to stumble upon one of my very good old friends who asked me for money on the road without recognizing me. This man was the best student I ever knew. We went to undergrad classes together in Actuarial Science. He was very good at math and I couldn't believe he couldn't find a job also. He had everything for himself back in the days, and I was sure he was a big boss for a major company somewhere.
He explained to me how hard it was to get an internship. When he could find one, they would use him as an intern for the maximum allowed time of 2 years, and then replace him with another intern. This had been his reality from quite some time. Coming from a modest family, he try some small business without any success. So he did not have any choice than wondering asking for money to eat while looking for a job at the same time.
We've chatted quite some time and I gave him what he needed for some days. The following days, I made some calls to get him a job as an accountant with some people I know. He also introduce me to a local association that used to provide him with food. I started bringing food there once every month.
Several months later, I realized that most of the young people getting food from this association were dependent from it. If nothing else was done, they would never leave poverty. While some of them started small businesses, they couldn't get enough to make a living out these businesses.
After some days thinking, I realized that I should help them fish instead of giving them food. To cut the story short, I then started saving a big chunk of my salary to start the first African freelancing website. Since most of these young people had at least undergraduate degrees, they would sell what they knew on a freelance basis to particulars and companies from in and out of the country. This would change they live, and help an unlimited number of them at the same time. All I had to do is create the website and make sure it was known. The website would manage the entire order process just like Fiverr, or Freelancer (I knew these businesses model from my days in Canada).
I would also set up a sale collaboration between the website members to boost wealth within the platform. Any member, if he desires, could offer to pay commissions to other website members that will help him close sales. This way, each member would refer some of its customers to other members that provide complementary services. Other members could also specialize in looking for customers for those that sell services on the website and live out of the commission they would earn.
3 Years after, by the beginning of 2018, I had saved 150 000 dollars and borrowed 100 000 more with the bank I was working at. I then hired some of these young people to build up the website, while I kept on working at the bank. However, we were moving very slowly since I didn't have time to manage what they were doing and some of them did not have any experience in programing while having a degree in the field. The program had a lot of bugs and I had to find another solution.
I soon realized I had to make a choice, keeping on working or quitting my job to give everything I had to this venture. In my head, it was clear, as a banker I was mostly lending money to people that were already rich. The truth that I was earning my living, but having almost no impact on the community. On the contrary, helping a lot of young people building they own business and thus radically changing the life of an unlimited number of youngers will bring so much to the community while providing me with incomes as well. I felt like it would be so rewarding to earn my living while helping others. And to me, it worth the sacrifice.
I quit my job at the end of 2018 and devote myself to creating IzyBizz.com, the first collaborative freelancing website for the entire West African Region. To move fast, I hired a Moroccan company to develop the website and put all the features I could afford. This cost me 85 000 dollars.
But I ran out of money when COVID can along
By the end of the first quarter of 2019, IzyBizz.com was live. It took us 2 more months to insert service offers for more than 200 of these young men and women. We then had to look for customers that will come to the website to buy these service. IzyBizz would get 10% on any closed deal. This was half the usual commission, but I wanted to make sure I don’t kill these small businesses at birth. All other services were free.
To get customers, we had to travel around the country, publish ads in newspapers, radios and so on. I also used my network to find customers in Europe, Canada, and other Africans countries, 37 countries are now represented on the website. But all these efforts cost a lot of money and some of my relatives and friends were also helping me financially. But on the field, I was boosted by the very encouraging feedbacks I was getting from both the sellers and the buyers. At that time, IzyBizz had 10 employees for around 13 000 USD salary expenses a month (not counting myself since I was not getting any salary).
We were starting to get results by the end of 2019 and starting up internet communications early this years. However, all my efforts were ruined in no time when the COVID came along.
I soon ran out of money and my financial supports could help me anymore. I couldn’t pay my employee salaries by March, but they kept on coming at work working as if I was paying them. They believed on the project and still keep on giving me everything they can. We’ve created supports for communication on Facebook, Instagram, created a Youtube channel, etc... Without any professional help and started little communications over the internet. But we were lacking financing to get professional help and initiate big internet communication campaigns.
By the end of August, I was losing hope and faith. I didn’t have enough money to take care of myself. I was thinking about going back to find a job when I receive a help from somebody I didn’t know. He just learned what I was trying to do and wanted to help. He gave me enough financing for salary and basic operational expenses (rent, utilities, etc…) till the end of the year and promise to do more before the year end. However, he didn’t have enough money to finance our development needs. He encouraged create a campaign on Gofundme and assured me I would find what I need here.
To be honest, I hesitated for a couple of weeks before initiating this campaign.
Here’s what we’ve done so far
- We developed IzyBizz.com with many basics features. You can visit the website “here”.
- com is now live with more than 5000 members. However, most of them are passive member we’ve got through actions on social networks. While they are interested, they do not know how to use the website.
- Almost 350 000 USD was exchanged so far on the website. But this brought little revenue to the business (around 35 000 USD) compared to the current operating expenses level.
- We’ve created Facebook and Instagram Pages for marketing purpose
- We also create a Youtube channel and a twitter and a linkedin account that we don’t really manage due to the lack in man power.
- We create marketing content to page communication till January 2020 and ran small ads on Facebook.
- We’ve traveled to country to get customers and also got some from Europ and other African countries. 37 nationalities opened an account on the website.
- We’ve run commercial an affordable radios in Ivory Coast, etc…
Here’s what we need your help for
We need to launch a comprehensive Marketing communication plan to get more customers for our sellers. We initiated discussions with web marketing professional and got an estimated budget of $150 000 for :
- Full scale social network communication and ads over Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin
- Internet marketing for blogging and SEO
- Writing dozens of articles for communication blogging and communication purpose
- Hire internet influencers for marketing purpose
- Hire professional help for marketing counseling and supports
Moving forward, we need to initiate more project to improve the project business model.
I promise to keep you updated as we move along with each of these projects.
I do really appreciate you taking the time to read everything. May god bless you!