TRYING TO LEAD A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE IN AFRICA? LEARN FROM FRANCIS STEVENS GEORGE

Meet the man whose dreams led him into relocating home and engineering the change that he so desired. Francis Stevens George is on a mission to help build startups and scale up companies in Sierra Leone that will go global. He perceives that in doing so, he will be creating thousands of jobs, support in growing the economy and more importantly bring about social inclusion.
In fulfilling these needs, He founded Innovation SL and Innovation Axis both are Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs) which he manages directly. Innovation Axis provides pre incubation, incubation and Acceleration support to starts and scale ups. Innovation SL takes a leadership role in mapping and enabling an Entrepreneurial ecosystem that will support high growth, value creating and impact focused enterprises.
Sojourning through life, His achievements range from graduating from The London School of Economics BSc Economics (Hons) to securing an MBA; a Masters of Management, E-enterprise, Innovation and Leadership from the Norwegian School of Management.
We find Francis to be your queer kind of inspiring human who understands complex systems but also thrives on the simple things. This is brilliantly shown in his life’s pathway, from working for a fortune 500 company; international organizations to birthing six (6) companies.
Amidst this, He has built a family with his wife and two teenagers set to explore the world.

Leading for a Purpose

To create positive social change requires a lot of service, dedication and innovation. It requires daily adjustments, mental alertness and motivation, thankfully these are qualities that we have been able to nurture through these platforms:
Freetown Pitch Night. A platform that provides budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas or post revenue. It has become a central networking asset in our efforts to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sierra Leone. The social impact is that we have seen an increase in young people wanting to start their own business. It has created social inclusion as anyone- anyone can attend and can pitch! Globally, the start-up scene in Sierra Leone is been seen through the prism of Freetown Pitch Night!

Innovation SL- an entrepreneurship support organization I setup in 2017. It has been a focal point in the development of the ecosystem.

Our incubator is attracting interesting angel investors and venture capitalists because of the program design which is a combination of Business Model Canvass and Lean Start up; and the emphasis on validating the customer segment and offering.

In 2020, our incubation program will be 50% anchored to SDGs, 2, 4, 7 and 8.We will also be more Problem Focused in our approached. Essentially we are deviating from the standard approach to nurturing innovators- through innovation competitions that focus on the top 3 winners out of 100 submissions. We take an ecosystems approach to nurturing innovators and we place huge emphasis on validation.

The drum rolls and calls to action 

What motivates me is my desire to bring change to Sierra Leone. I am also motivated by our young population. Its demographic dividend that we need to leverage.
I am lucky to have had grandparents that laid the foundation for me to have had an education that has allowed to me to become the person I am.
I feel that it is my duty to create a space which can allow young people to explore their dreams; to find opportunities and to grow.
It might surprise you but there are success stories of entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone; but first, I would like to distinguish between rent seeking entrepreneurship and value creating entrepreneurship.
I will focus on newcomers and on value creating. This is not to dismiss incumbents that are inspiring.
Track Your Build is one of the  start up success stories in Sierra Leone. What makes them stand out is their vertical focus in developing a drone service business in SL. It would have been all too easy to go horizontal. However, the founders have ignored the hype and stayed within a vertical, developing the business model.
-I can also name Aminata Kandeh- Fish farming. Again her singular focus to getting the fundamentals right is what is resulting in her success.
Jim Agri and Co are into green houses. In my view, a team commitment is very important to success especially for a startup. They are a very cohesive team, with complimentary skills sets and of course great personalities.
The future is really bright. We are incubating 15 startups. Some are innovating in design spaces for working and living; we have startups that are transforming plastic waste to building materials; edtech, ecommerce, all addressing SDG’s.

 

 

 

Contrary to popular belief, there is no complex formula for entrepreneurship in Africa! As much as I am economist, I do not like formulas, we are dealing with people. We must create an ecosystem that supports start-ups NOT just Incumbents. If there was a one- size fit all equation, then it must – solve a tier one problem; create value; measurable impact; simple, easy to use- solves a tier one problem- validate, validate – Francis Stevens George

 

The Power of Continuous Learning

I do not read books about “How to succeed or how get rich’’ – never. I read philosophy, technical stuff, evolution and literature.
I am a curious person; I like to learn new stuff and I always tell myself—I need to learn more, this gives me energy and motivation.
I am in groups, I have a mentor and this is very important.
In my previous management roles- I went through various training programs.
In the final analysis, I am successful or good in what I do because I am myself- I am authentic.

Everything I am do and who I am represents my true nature and I am not afraid to be myself. I can be ignorant because I am; I am being playful because I am; I respect everyone. I do not look down upon anyone. My convictions- one of them- that we all have a unique gift – is what drives me. I do not dwell on the past- I try to be here and fix what is broken, NOW.

Hard lessons for the future

Hard lessons? I have had a lot of pain, sadness and lessons- If you do not tell what you want, then people are going to guess for you; and it may be  a wrong guess.
The future for me is bright! I see every day the impact my small contribution is making to the life of  start ups; I see our two children, My 19 year daughter and my 15 old son expressing their concern over the environment. I see an Africa in which we are empowering more and more young people and perhaps more importantly for me- women to taking leadership  roles in their private spaces and in the public sphere.
This is the kind of future I want to be part of and I am helping creating it.

Written by: arianadiaries

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2 Comments

  • Joyce Smalle-Olowu

    Great!Thank you Mr George. Pray you get more wins in this endeavor.

  • Joshua Amos Kargbo

    personally for me i believe innovation axis is the best because of it unique role in ensuring transformation in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sierra Leone. Mr. Francis, on the other hand is doing a fantastic job in empowering the young generation of entrepreneurs in the country. His Freetown pitch night initiative and his incubation program for young people to gain professional development training has helped contributed immensely to build remarkable entrepreneurs with high success story.