Feature by Embassy of the Netherlands in Ghana
The following article was originally posted by the Embassy of Ghana Netherlands in Ghana on their Facebook Page on 26 February 2018
Today on #TalentedTuesday we are featuring David Coleman, founder of Council of Local Experts (COLE) which is a business support community that provides mentoring, networking and peer-learning opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals.
“I was born in Ghana and raised in the Netherlands”, David explains. “We moved there when I was 5 for my mother’s job, who was the ambassador to the Netherlands at the time. I finished my schooling there, and completed my university education in the U.K in the field of Information Architecture – which is basically using graphic design for taking complex information and finding visual ways of making it accessible – like infographics, for example.” David’s upbringing in the Netherlands and consequent schooling in the U.K made him acutely aware of the lack of mentoring available in Ghana, where he realized the absence of successful local business leaders passing on their expertise to the younger generations of start-ups.
Upon graduation, David first began his career at the Ghanaian government in the field of information management, moving on to a web development company after. At 28, he started his own business. “But I was not ready to run a company yet” he laughs. “It’s a complicated thing.” David sold the company but was kept on as creative director. “It was a great learning experience. I wasn’t well equipped enough to run a business; I knew I was talented in the fields that I specialized in – design, advertisement, communications etc – but I had no clue on all the other aspects of running a business – the finances, registering, bookkeeping, and so on. It taught me a lot of lessons.”
After some more work experience in various companies, he decided to return to the Netherlands to complete his MBA at Nyenrode Business School, a period which recalls as one of the biggest learning experiences of his life. “The education I had taught me to be critical, creative and curious. I realized even more that in Ghana this was one of the biggest missed opportunities in our education system: We are taught to memorize things, learn them from the book, and repeat them like parrots. Critical thinking is not part of our curriculum.”
Identifying the lack of knowledge from experts being passed down to the younger generations and entrepreneurs as being one of the biggest missed opportunities for Ghanaian start-ups, David decided to found COLE to try to help stimulate a community that shares knowledge and expertise in a unique and interactive way.
The essence of COLE is a business support community for entrepreneurs and professionals - this support is primarily provided in the form of local mentoring by experts from a broad range of industries with extensive experience and specific expertise. They organize events where professionals and promising entrepreneurs get to meet-up with industry pioneers for frank discussions about their business. During the events, guest professionals and entrepreneurs get to ask experts questions about the challenges they face, ideas that they have and areas of business they want to understand better. The experts mentor on topics ranging from the business model, organization, product, distribution, sales, marketing, advertising, creative and operations. They dissect and discuss the business challenges, objectives, strengths and weaknesses to help members discover opportunities, focus effort and fine tune strategies that will help their businesses scale. The small-scale groups allow for each member to receive valuable and insightful feedback on their challenges.
In two days the next edition of COLE will take place, so if you are an entrepreneur in need of fresh new ideas and solutions, be sure to check out the info on the flyers attached.
And last but not least – some advice from David to other entrepreneurs? “Learn the rules, then break them. You need to have a wholesome understanding of how to run a start-up –not just an understanding of the specific field you are skilled in – and then once you learn these rules, you can start breaking them, and really stand out and show your creativity. Naturally, not everyone is skilled in every aspect of starting up a business, which is why it is important to reach out and ask for advice, guidance, and feedback when need be. And this is precisely where an initiative like COLE may help you”.