Innovation has traditionally swung into and out of fashion: popular in good times and tossed back into the closet in downturns. But as globalization tears down the geographic boundaries and market barriers that once kept businesses from achieving their potential, a company's ability to innovate—to tap the fresh value-creating ideas of its employees and those of its partners, customers, suppliers, and other parties beyond its own boundaries—is anything but faddish. In fact, innovation has become a core driver of growth, performance, and valuation.
Startup Grind Monrovia is hosting passionate young entrepreneurs and changemakers to discuss Leadership and Innovation by sharing their own personal experiences.
Our Panelist Profiles:
Luther Jeke is the Manager of iCampus, Liberia's first shared innovation, co-working and community space for organizations and individuals focusing on the intersection of technology, accountability and social change in Liberia. He has eight years of experience in the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) sector. Luther is a member of the 2019 class of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program and is an alumnus of the US State Department’s President Obama Emerging Global Leaders Initiative (EGLI) in Washington, DC. Luther earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with emphasis on Economics and has several professional certifications and diplomas in Organizational and Project Management, Information Technology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Over the years, Luther has worked and consulted for entities in the USA and West Africa. These included Creative Associates Int’l in Washington, DC, iLab Liberia, Ushahidi Liberia, Starz Institute of Technology, Int’l Bank Liberia, Ltd, New Birth Empowerment Center, etc. During his days as iLab Liberia’s Director of Training, he and his team provided more than 4,500 Liberians and foreign nationals the opportunity to use the innovation lab and gain new technology skills to empower their businesses and communities. Luther is passionate about efficiently using innovative technologies and collaborative spaces to empower local communities, SMEs, Governmental and Non-governmental organizations.
Mahmud Johnson is Founder and CEO of J-Palm Liberia (JPL), a Monrovia-based company that manufactures organic health and beauty products out of previously wasted palm kernels. Oil palm trees are indigenous to Liberia (and West Africa as a whole), and grow naturally throughout the region. However, more than 90% of smallholder oil palm producers in Liberia live on less than $1.25 a day. Due to lack of access to finance, smallholders use an ancient technique of manually squeezing the palm oil out of the palm fruit. This inefficiency results in 35% of palm fruit going unharvested every year, and 50% lower oil yield. Beyond the palm oil, smallholders discard more than 98% of the palm kernels by either burning or throwing them into rivers, creating air and water pollution. JPL manages and operates mini oil palm mills in partnership with rural communities. In lieu of the labor-intensive and inefficient manual extraction technique, smallholders use JPL machines to process palm oil at no up-front cost. In return, they pay JPL 10% of the oils produced. The machines reduce processing time by 90% and increase extraction rates by 50%. As a result, over 500 smallholders with whom JPL work have seen their incomes increase by up to 264%. Additionally, JPL purchases the palm kernels from smallholders, and processes them into palm kernel oil to create a range of beauty products. By creating a productive use for the palm kernels, JPL helps smallholders further grow their incomes from trading a resource that was treated as waste just a few years ago. Beyond its work with farmers, JPL has structured its distribution model to address the alarming rate of youth unemployment through its unique sales model. JPL has recruited and trained 475 young Liberians to serve as Field Sales Representatives. The average Sales Rep has 5 years of education and would be unlikely to find stable employment elsewhere. Through J-Palm, hundreds of Liberians (mostly women and youth) are earning decent wages and benefits (including family heath insurance, tuition assistance, and daily meals). Some of JPL’s Reps use their incomes to send themselves to college. Mahmud holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics from Dartmouth College, and a Certificate in Business Strategy from the Business Bridge Program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Goto M. Cooper
Goto M. Cooper is a servant youth leader, mentor, educator, and motivational speaker. He is the Founder/Executive Director of Educate The Future Liberia (ETF Liberia), a local NGO that is committed to developing the next-generation leaders through education empowerment. He is an Obama African Leader, Young Political Leadership School Fellow, Global Citizenship Education Ambassador, YALI RLC Alumni, Unleash Talent, and a Rotaractor. Goto’s currently serves as Representative for the National Education NGOs Forum, Speaker of the YALI Alumni Liberia Chapter, and Asst. Director for International Affairs at the Young Ambassador for Peace. He is the recipient of the Young Ambassador for Peace award, Outstanding Leader for Community Service Award, Outstanding Changemaker Award among others. He is on a mission to inspire young people to achieve their dreams as tomorrow's changemakers.
James K. Mulbah
James K. Mulbah has more than 8 years of experience empowering Liberian youth and protecting the environment. As Founder and Executive Director of Concerned Youth Organized for Development and Progressive Action (CYODPA), Inc., he provided monthly counselling to young people in Monrovia’s Turtle Base Ghetto. James is the Chief Executive Officer of Green Cities Inc. , a youth-based social enterprise operating Liberia’s first waste recycling Program. Through Green Cities Inc., James has expanded his youth initiatives by creating more than 150 jobs opportunity for young people in slum communities throughout Monrovia. In 2015, James co established a non for profit organization called Computer for Schools Liberia that focuses on Advocating for the environment mainly on Electronic waste disposal and Refurbishing Computer waste for the establishment of computer labs to educate kids and youths in slum communities about the importance of Technology. In addition to this, on 23 of April, 2016, Agro-Green Liberia was established to handle organic waste for the production of fertilizer and it application. James has received numerous certificates and accolades, among them a Certificate in Peace Building and Conflict Transformation from the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation University of Liberia and a certificate in Financial Management from the World Bank Group IFC. James completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of Liberia. He is a candidate for master Degree in International Relations; University of Liberia. He obtained a diploma in Strategic Business Management from the Swedish Institute for Public Administration, Sweden sponsored by SIDA. He got a Certificate in Electronic Waste Recycling at Ateliers De Formations Industrielles in Switzerland . He got a certificate in Bio Digester Toilet construction from Drillix Ghana Limited. Currently, he is member of the United States Ambassador to Liberia Council of Youth Advisors and also a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow. He served on the Regional Advisory Board of West Africa of the Mandela Washington Fellowship from 2014-2015; where he represents Liberia and Sierra Leone on the Board. In 2014, he was given the Most Innovative entrepreneur Award by Business Start-up Center in partnership with SPARK, Bid network, and Accountability Lab. In 2017, he won an Award from Cleanup Africa as one of the Innovative youth on the continent. Currently, James is a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program 2015 Fellow (TEEP 2015). He is also an Echoing Green Finalist 2015 and a Sanergy Fellow. In May 2015, James was selected by the Young African Society; a World Bank Group as the Second most innovative Entrepreneurs out of 140 young people on the continent. On the 15th July 2016, James received a Prize Award from World Bank Liberia in a Grant Prize Competition to tackle youth Unemployment and poor waste management in Monrovia. He is a 2016 Richard Branson Scholar in Entrepreneurship. James also was honored as the 2018 United States -Africa Entrepreneurship Award. In May of 2019, James was elected as the President of the State Exchange Alumni of Liberia-SEAL a network of people who benefited from the US government sponsorship program.
Alpha Mahamoud Kamara
Alpha Mahamoud Kamara is the CEO & Co-founder of Ace Network (Ace Multimedia), a young Liberian entrepreneur and a content developer. He is a strategic thinker, a good planner, team player, a problem solver, a go getter, who has a poise for creativity and innovation. He is currently serving as Program Director for Each One Save One an International NGO in Liberia, a Project Officer for Single Empowerment Network-NGO in Liberia, as Program and Communications Coordinator at Sister’s Hand Liberia –in Liberia, a sub-editor and freelance journalist at Daily Observer Gambia Ltd for 3 years, and editor/content creator of Observer Light a weekly Magazine in The Gambia for one year. He moved on as an administrator and production secretary for Bangz Entertainment Talent Management Company for 9 months, documentary journalist and proof reader at State of Mic Multimedia for 2 years in The Gambia. He is a trained Photo journalist and visual story teller at the Gambia Press Union, a public relation and media professional for print and electronic media, and also a poet.