A year ago, BraveHearts Expeditions was worth, 25,000 dollars. Today, it is worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As I entered the Hub Accra that fateful morning, I was eager to meet a mentor who could help me on my journey to starting my own online company.
About three months prior, I had conceived of what I believed to be a great idea, something that will completely cause a revolution in customer service delivery in Ghana, using the Internet, especially for blue-collar jobs. And I was determined to start see it propel me into billionaire status in a few months, or so I hoped.
So entering this mentoring session organized for young entrepreneurs who had been short listed for the American Embassy's Start Up Cup Competition, I was looking out for a mentor who would understand my doubts and constrains as a young Ghanaian man looking to start a business.
Scouting around the small conference room, there were about four small groups, each comprising 5 entrepreneurs assigned to a mentor. But I realized something different about a particular group- the high level of energy and interaction between the entrepreneurs in the group and their mentor,who I must say was awkwardly dressed in a military-ish looking attire with thick jungle boots. Who is this guy, and why does he have these his entrepreneurs eating off of the palms of his hand.
I wondered exactly what he was telling these young entrepreneurs and why they were all very attentive, laughing at his jokes, and energetically responding to what he was saying. No other mentor in the room had that kind of effect that he was having on his group.
I realized, upon joining his group, that not only did Dziedzorm Segbefia win the previous edition of the Start Up Cup Competition, he understood exactly where the young entrepreneurs found themselves, and on the whole, he understood the challenges young Ghanaian entrepreneurs and Start Ups face, and how easy it is to want to give up because he has been there.
And for his group of mentees, they found in him the perfect mentor who walked where they are currently walking and actually defeated higher odds to achieve the success they hoped for. He perfectly understood them because he faced a higher challenge with his business idea. He inspires them because he defeated those odds.
Jay Jay as he is affectionately called is the Chief Expeditions Leader of an expeditions company founded not more than five years ago called BraveHearts Expeditions.
Wildlife and Adventures in Ghana? Is this guy crazy? Does he think we are in America? That was what I thought about his business.
First of all, it is a luxury service, operating in a country having serious challenges recovering from a serious economic crisis.
Necessities have become a lot more difficult to afford, talk less of someone paying for an adventure hiking trip through the Kwahu Forests, or climbing the Afajato, or Abseiling the Shai Hills.
But the tenacity of Jay Jay has propelled what used to be a hobby into a full fledged business in Ghana- a business worth several hundreds of thousands of Ghana Cedis, which gives its customers an experience of a life time in the African Jungles, and the highest peaks of the world.
How it all started
Jay Jay's first exposure to expeditions and the adventures of nature and wild life was through the Head of States Awards Scheme; an adventurous expedition program for Senior High Schools.
Jay Jay was one of the key members of his Accra Academy HOSA Club, who not only excelled in the Bronze, Silver and Gold expeditions, but went on to be one of the gold medalists in the country.
After school, he took this love for expeditions further to the international level where he assisted on a few expeditions in Africa especially to Kilimanjaro, where he rose through the ranks to leading his own expeditions 7 times to Kilamanjaro and Mount McKinley in the U.S- two of the seven highest peaks on earth.
Just like many Ghanaian youth, it hasn't always been Jay Jay's idea to run his own business, especially not an enigmatic one like BraveHearts Expedition.
He describes his venture into business as a matter of necessity and surviaval.
After SHS, he enrolled at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, then went to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to read law. Halfway through his law degree he lost interest in the course, and decided to study a Masters in Communications at the University of Ghana, instead.
After that, he got a job, and was happy earning a salary, until tragedy struck- well looking back today, he won't say it was a tragedy- but he lost his job, he was fired!
From then on, in his own words, it became a matter of survival.
After unsuccessful attempts at getting a new job, the founder of BraveHearts Expeditions decided to use his greatest skill- expeditions, to provide his next meal.
So he devised an expeditions program for Senior High School and University students to some of the common attraction sites in the country, Boti Falls, Afajato Mountain amongst others.
Then came the appetite to scale up to bigger expeditions, bigger clients, and bigger profits. But there was the challenge of finance. Almost every financial investor Jay Jay talked to, thought he was smoking something, to think that such a business idea would work in Ghana. He failed massively at raising the needed capital to make it work
" That's when I understood that business especially, if you find yourself where I was at that time; well-educated but jobless and broke, all that makes sense is where to get your next meal. For me I was no longer concerned about business plans, and pitching, all I cared about was where to get my next customer in order to afford my next meal."
So when all the drive for investment did not work, he just switched into survival mode, looking for the next customer and the next, and the next. Scavenging from Senior High Schools, Universities, corporate entities ( with little luck), to multi nationals, embassies and international organisations.
That was when it all started to work. BraveaHearts Expeditions realized that their best clients would be entities of diasporan backgrounds and expatriate employees who wanted to experience the Ghanaian Wild for themselves, first-hand.
From then on, Jay Jay and his BraveHeart Expeditions were in business. There was a stable flow of clients and sturdy flow of income.
Dealing with Business Pitches and Acquiring Grants.
Running expeditions is a capital intensive endeavour. One requires sleeping tents, protective gear, hi-tech security arrangements, trucks, and high-level expert training for staff, which cost over several thousands of dollars per staff. Braveheats needed some extra funding of some sort to suvive.
This time they opted for business competitions with the ultimate aim of getting grants to further scale up the business.
So Jay Jay and his team enrolled in the 2013 edition of Enactus Business plan competition as well as the Start UP Cup 2013. They won both.
They went on to the World Start Up Cup Competition and placed second. This earned Jay Jay President Barack Obama's Washington Mandela Fellowship, and a 10,000 dollar grant for Bravehearts.
All these owed to Jay Jays unparalleled ability to sell his business in a ptch. He is one of the best business pitchers in the country with his ability to persuade almost every judge that his expeditions Idea in Ghana makes sense and is extremely commercially viable. And he almost always succeeds.
No wonder the 2014 Start Up Cup contestants were eating out of his palms, listening to him with such avid attention. He knew and had the secrets to succeeding, not only in a business pitching contest, but making the impossible in business, possible.
BraveHeart Expedition's Success today.
A year ago, BraveHearts Expeditions was worth, 25,000 dollars. Today, it is worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. With over 20 expeditions Sites in Ghana, and 150 across Africa, they have ran 6000 different expeditions in Ghana alone since 2010.
BraveHearts Expeditions are able to take clients on one expedition from West Africa to Southen Africa, hiking, climbing mountains, abseiling amongst other adventurous activities.
The next time you hit an obstacle in life, stop and remember the BraveHeart Jay Jay Segbefia who says nothing is impossible!