I joined the Ye! Community in 2018, at the same time when I joined Makerere University in Uganda.
At this point I had already been an entrepreneur for two years. I had founded my business Youth Initiative for Economic Transformation (YIET) in 2016 as a community-based organization. The first two years of navigating the entrepreneurial world without support or networks to lean on were very tough and filled with challenges, lack of guidance, and lack of encouragement.
For me, joining the Ye! Community marked the beginning of a positive transformation for both myself and for my business YIET.
Young African Innovator Video Contest
I became more actively involved with Ye! in 2020, when the community launched the Young African Innovators Contest together with the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA). Young entrepreneurs submitted videos sharing the challenges they were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving insights on how they were managing these challenges, and offering advice to fellow youth entrepreneurs facing the same roadblocks. The video contest strengthened my contacts and outreach. I worked hard to share my video within my networks in order to get the required votes for the people's choice award. I ended up being a finalists and received a certificate.
Ye! Coffee Roulette - Mentor programme
The Ye! Coffee Roulette pairs entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors around the world. It is an initiative that has left a positive imprint on me and my business in many ways.
As part of the pilot cohort of the Ye! Coffee Roulette, I was paired with three different expert mentors from a variety of countries. My interaction with each of them led to many important take-aways. Here is what I learned:
I was matched with Mr. Li Shen from Citi's Corporate Banking division. He has held various roles within the bank and across three different continents. Li also brought his colleague Wendy Lin on board, a startup operations expert and website designer. As a team, Li, Wendy and I embarked on a mission to digitalise YIET and to make our content available online for the world to see. This project benefited YIET by exposing our story to a global audience and by allowing for more connection and interaction with potential partners. Having an online presence now allows us to facilitate better relationships with existing online microfinance institutions for future collaborations.
From day one, working with Li and Wendy has been a great pleasure. Both are very friendly, courteous, and considerate and I am looking forward to staying in touch with them.
I was also matched with Mrs. Karuna Luther from the UAE, who is a Financial Literacy Specialist. Together, we are in the process of designing an extensive YIET record tracking sheet that captures the entire YIET Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) records, the details of beneficiaries, loans taken and projects underway. This exercise will enable a conclusive analysis and more informed decision-making through the use of the data available. Working with Mrs. Karuna has been very valuable for YIET and a great honour.
Overall, the Ye! Community has impacted my professional development for the better and set up the road to success for my organization.
Julius Odida is the Founder of Youth Initiative for Economic Transformation (YIET) based in Uganda. Connect with him on the Ye! Community platform here.
For more insights into the importance of mentorship, listen to Mentorwise here - a podcast by the International Trade Centre's Youth & Trade Programme and VC4A.