How I Launched Two Businesses and Put Myself Through University

By Doreen Byonabye, Educate! Mentor
Doreen is currently in her final year of university and is a Mentor to over 120 students in three schools in Central Uganda.

All my life, I had admired accountants and wished to be like them one day. But after graduating from high school, I had lost hope that I could go to university to continue with my studies because I couldn’t pay the school fees. My dad told me he could not manage to pay millions of shillings every semester. Despite this, I was determined to achieve my dream, so I searched for a job that would allow me to save for university. I believed that with education I could move mountains.

Fortunately, I was hired at KAC Chemicals and Paints to work as a supervisor. With my high school diploma, I was supervising people older than me! I applied to Kyambogo University and took the first course that would enable me to achieve my dream of becoming an accountant.

I started working in the morning and studying in the evening. It was hectic, but since I was working for tuition I knew it was worth it. I was able to raise half of my tuition every semester, and this was supplemented by my dad’s contribution.

I had a passion for business and decided to become an Educate! Mentor in 2014. I was no longer able to balance my job and my studies, but Educate! believed in me and believed that I could change many lives while achieving my own dreams as a Mentor. Through the YBE (Youth Business Experience) training, I started a project making liquid soap. It looked impossible at the beginning due to many challenges in the industry, but I never gave up. I decided to market my products in hostels, to friends, on campus, and to local people. Six months later, I had made enough that I was able to invest some of the profits in another project, a piggery, to expand on my income generation. These projects now enable me to raise half of my school fees and meet my necessities every semester, as well as put a little bit of money in savings.

Throughout it all, I valued patience, endurance, commitment, overcoming challenges, networking, and reading books. Now I am finalizing my degree-- Bachelor’s of Science in Finance and Accounting, and I employ myself and other people in my projects.

Reaching Uganda’s Most Impoverished Youth in 2016

Uganda district map

Next month, Educate! will launch our program expansion in Northern Uganda. This post-conflict area is the most impoverished region of Uganda – the poverty rate, at 43.7%, is nearly twice as high as the next-poorest region of Uganda, and more than two times the national average. After 23 years of conflict, two million people in Northern Uganda were uprooted from their homes and over 20,000 youth were abducted.

Educate! has high potential to create an exponential impact in this unique and challenging region. In 2016, we will be working in 80 additional schools in this region and reaching over 25,000 youth facing joblessness and struggling with the psychological impacts of war.

How did we prepare to operate in the region’s unique environment?

1. Learning best practices and listening to the community

Thanks to our partner Segal Family Foundation, Richard Luuba, Educate! Senior Program Officer, was able to travel to Northern Uganda to study best practices for Educate!’s expansion into the region. In a thought-provoking article he wrote for HuffPost Impact, he shares his insights on the importance of local leadership and community empowerment. Read the full article.

2. Experimenting with innovative solutions

The new areas we are expanding to in Northern Uganda are more spread out with lower school densities than our current districts. To prepare for working in this new environment, we experimented by combining two of our current remote districts to simulate conditions in the North. We’ve made several program adjustments based on this simulation, such as reducing field staff travel, which will inform program implementation in the North. We were pleased to see that the changes made throughout the year in our experiment districts have led to concrete improvements to program implementation in these districts.

3. Expanding our Uganda Team

More than anything else, successful implementation in this post-conflict region depends on the expertise and buy-in of people who are from the community and for the community. For this reason, we spent the last months of 2015 investing heavily in hiring the management team and staff who will lead our expansion into Northern Uganda, all of whom are from the region. Read more about the amazing team leading the charge.

Educate! Accepts WISE Award at Education Summit in Doha

Last week, Educate!’s co-founders-- Executive Director Boris Bulayev and Global Director of Programs Angelica Towne-- were in Doha, Qatar accepting the 2015 WISE Award, the pre-eminent global education award.

Educate! is a 2015 WISE Award Winner, and Boris and Angelica had the opportunity to present Educate!’s award-winning model to Summit attendees, as well as participate in a panel on the importance of skills-based education for youth and how to prepare a generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.

First lady Michelle Obama was in attendance, as well as hundreds of global education experts and leading innovators in the field.

For Angelica, one of the most inspiring moments of the Summit was listening to the First Lady’s speech: (She spoke) “about the power of education to give students a future their dreams couldn't even reach. She spoke of education taking her from a lower income apartment to the White House.”

We’re honored to have been part of such an amazing event! To see more highlights from the Summit, check out our Twitter feed and watch videos of some of the keynote speeches here:

Jane Ssebuyungo: Educate!'s New Program Coordinator Shares Her Perspective on Women in Leadership and Empowering Ugandan Girls


When Jane begins to describe her first teaching job at Mbogo High, her whole face lights up. Her love for the girls that she taught and the impact she made on them becomes evident. An all-girls school, Mbogo High served as a platform for Jane to grow into a strong teacher and advocate for female empowerment within the education system.

But then Jane met Maggie, Educate!'s Global Director of Policy and Partnerships, and a whole new world of possibilities opened up.  At the time, Maggie was the Program Director for Educate!, spreading the word about a new model of education that would help Ugandan youth lift themselves out of poverty. Jane recalls, “she communicated with the bottom of my heart. The passion of education. Empowering children with practical skills and entrepreneurship and delivering experience-based education. I had watched the girls I interacted with in my school grow stronger and more empowered. I believed working with Educate! was an opportunity for me to go outside the four walls of the classroom and impact as many girls as possible.”

Jane jumped at the opportunity to attend Educate!’s one-month Youth Entrepreneurship Training course.  She recalls, “it was a total transformation for my life. I discovered there was so much more in leadership and entrepreneurship, that I should be a leader so that I can impact many more communities.” Newly equipped with an arsenal of entrepreneurial know-how, Jane began working with Educate! as a Regional Officer for the Central Region of Uganda, overseeing the implementation of the Educate! model in over 18 schools.

Now, as the Program Coordinator, Jane’s impact has increased exponentially, fulfilling her dream of reaching and empowering even more young women and men through the Educate! curriculum. She is eager to utilize her new role to strengthen Educate!’s programming, design, and training while serving as an example to other Ugandans that “even women can make it up in management.”

Africans Are Optimistic, but Education and Jobs are Primary Concerns for the Future

Here’s some good news: a new Pew Research Center survey has found that people in major Sub-Saharan African nations are feeling more optimistic about the future than many others around the world.

“A median of 60% across the nine countries surveyed say their economy is going to improve in the next 12 months, and 56% believe the next generation will be better off financially than their parents. This is a much higher level of optimism than expressed by many others around the world.”

At the same time, there is acknowledgement of the pressing challenges currently being faced. According to the survey, when asked what the top priorities should be for their countries, two of the three biggest concerns were a lack of employment opportunities and the poor quality of education.

Results from this survey reaffirm the need for Educate!’s model and the important role it will play in ensuring youth have the tools they need to solve poverty for themselves and their communities. Read more about our innovative approach.

Stephen Uses Critical Thinking to Develop a Business Strategy that Solves a Local Need

Stephen Ogawang in his shop

Stephen Ogwang, an Educate! Mentor and businessman, just oozes charm. With a smile to kill and confidence to spare, he welcomes us into the Police Barracks in Nsambya, Kampala. This is where he’s set up shop; his brightly colored MTN Mobile stand among the uniforms, armed trucks and housing for police personnel. Although it may seem like an unusual place to conduct business, Stephen explains that his location is a part of his carefully-crafted strategic business plan to address a community need.

Before his business came to the barracks, there was no place for residents to buy common, daily necessities. People would have to travel to neighboring communities for simple items like airtime (for making phone calls and using internet data), pens, stationery and water. Now, with Stephen’s services, the community can spend less time running errands and more time investing their energy into other activities.

Stephen’s services have also identified another community need: computer literacy. Many people who live within the police barracks are job seekers, but lack computer access. Stephen, who says that “most people here don’t know how to write resumes; they don’t know how to write CVs”,  has incorporated drafting these essential documents into his business model and charges a fee for his expertise. He understands that his business savvy can be leveraged to positively impact the lives of those around him.

What’s next for Stephen? On top of the continual expansion of his business, he hopes to re-invest his income into higher education so that he can attend university. For Stephen, the sky’s the limit. Not only is Stephen impacting his own future, but he is also setting an example for the Scholars whom he Mentors by showing them that unwavering persistence and determination will carry you far.

From the Community, For the Community: The Right Team to Lead Northern Expansion

Educate!’s successful expansion to northern Uganda depends on people who are from the community and for the community. For this reason, Educate! has spent the last several months investing heavily in hiring the management team and staff who will lead our expansion into northern Uganda, all of whom are from the region. They have seen how destructive violence can be, they understand the deep consequences war has on a community, and they can directly relate to the youth they’re working to impact.

Educate!’s new Program Coordinator for northern Uganda is Lawrence Komakech. Lawrence is from Gulu, northern Uganda’s largest city. He is extremely passionate about and proud of his home community while also acknowledging that it has a complex and painful past. Lawrence’s Gulu roots are exactly why he is the perfect man to help lead the Northern Expansion.  Lawrence says that for a community that has gone through such collective hardship, trust is an essential factor. “For the community to really own this program, there must be high level of community participation and engagement, trust, consistency, honesty on both sides, and a belief or a feasible feeling that the program is impactful. A program can best be implemented by people who really understand and appreciate the needs of the people, the culture of the community they serve, the environment, the politics, and the unique history of the region."

With the expansion team in place, Educate! continues to actively recruit partner schools who want to bring the Educate! Experience to their students. In addition, Youth Leaders for the region will attend a two-week induction beginning September 21st, after which they will recruit, select, and train Mentors. In January, the new Mentors will attend an intensive induction to prepare for the first term of the program. This all leads up to the program launch in January 2016, when we expect to be working in 80 additional schools and reaching over 25,000 additional youth in northern Uganda alone.

Educate! Named 2015 WISE Awards Winner

We are so excited to share that Educate! has been named a winner of the 2015 WISE Awards. Educate! was one of six cutting edge projects chosen for transforming communities and providing one of the most innovative and effective approaches to a pressing challenge in global education. This award represents a huge accomplishment and validation of Educate!'s mission and impact, as our flagship program-- the Educate! Experience -- was selected by an international panel of education experts.

WISE (the World Innovation Summit for Education), was established by the Qatar Foundation in 2009 to identify and promote compelling education solutions. We are thrilled and honored to be a part of WISE's global effort to solve the greatest challenges facing education today.

Congratulations to all the 2015 WISE Award winners! Learn more about WISE and see the list of winning organizations here

Educate! Selected as Mission Meats’ First Featured Partner

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Mission Meats, a young, mission-driven startup that produces grass-fed beef snack sticks without nitrates, gluten, or MSG. As part of its model, Mission Meats commits 10% of its profits to social good organizations. 

Mission Meats is the newest brainchild of entrepreneur Peter Awad, who has created several eCommerce sites and founded Slow Hustle, a podcast that dissects the balancing act of the startup world with family and personal life. 

Educate! is thrilled to have been selected as Mission Meats' first charity partner. Read more about the partnership on the Mission Meats blog.

Feedback and the Educate! Culture

Induction is a two week intensive training for Educate!’s passionate field staff (Mentors, Youth Leaders and Program Officers) where they reflect on the successes and challenges of the previous term and prepare for the next. It is a powerful intersection of work and play. “Camp Rules” are posted to the wall and there truly is an overnight camp atmosphere. Staff form Induction families to create a sense of community; they bunk together in the dormitories; they play games together during down time; they form essential bonds between those who are newcomers and those who are exiting the Educate! family, on to bigger and better endeavors. But most importantly, they learn together, challenge one another, and look forward to the next school term together. It’s an exciting environment, a mixture of determination and contagious laughter.

The unique nature of Induction stems from two of Educate!’s core values: "Always Learning" and "Only Solve a Problem Once". These tenets are a promise to ensure that all aspects of the organization are continually evaluated and improved upon and that we proactively solve and communicate problems to create long-term solutions. Embedding these principles in our culture enables Educate! to remain nimble as we navigate new terrain and work toward long term, sustainable impact.

At Induction, the focus is no different and all activities orbit around learning: the days kick off with “Knowledge Shares” where staff teach one another valuable life and business skills. Mentors then lead mock Leadership & Entrepreneurship classes. Following the mock lesson, the Mentors receive sharp, constructive feedback from their peers that helps to guide their growth, so that when their classroom is full of Educate! Scholars, they are prepared, confident and effective.

Mentors are not the only ones who receive feedback. Field staff are often given the platform to assess elements of the Educate! program in a continuous effort to improve and advance quality and efficiency. For example, two months ago, the Mentors requested that the color of their curriculum books be changed from white to red; the white covers got dirty very quickly and no longer appeared professional. Educate! listened, and at Induction Mentors received their freshly printed red curriculum books.

Finally, staff are trained on the latest programmatic upgrades whether it be new reporting protocols, updated policies or advancements in the curriculum. All staff exit Induction with a renewed sense of purpose and passion along with an arsenal of sharpened skills. 

Educate! Selected to join Epic Foundation’s 2015 Global Portfolio

Out of more than 1,400 applicants from around the world, Educate! has been selected by the Epic Foundation as one of the 20 most impactful youth organizations globally.

Epic has an innovative approach to global investment: the foundation promotes top-vetted charities in its portfolio much the same way that a business would pitch to investors before an initial public offering. Epic’s portfolio of charities operate in four areas of children’s welfare: health, economic empowerment, human rights, and education. This fall and winter, Epic will present its portfolio to three groups: entrepreneurs, “voices” (entertainers and athletes), and corporate donors. Calling this promotional tour a “road show”, Epic will stop in Boston, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, Paris, and Singapore.

Read more about Epic’s model, and see the other portfolio organizations in this Chronicle of Philanthropy article

Educate! Graduate Blessed Grace Wins ILO Award

You may remember a story we shared recently about Educate! Scholar Blessed Grace and her successful rabbit-raising business.

We are very proud to report that Blessed's company has been awarded a grant through the International Labor Organization's Youth-To-Youth Fund! The Youth-To-Youth (Y2Y) Fund aims to provide youth led organizations with both funding and capacity building, enabling them to become active participants in the creation of new employment opportunities for youth. Blessed plans to use her Y2Y grant to help empower young women through the rabbit rearing trade, and to improve her home district of Nebbi.

Congratulations, Blessed!

Educate! Selected by PSIPSE Consortium as Partner for Major Program Expansion

Educate! is thrilled to announce that we are one of 15 projects selected by the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), a collaboration between Dubai Cares, Echidna Giving, Intel Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation and an anonymous donor. The investments announced by PSIPSE will increase the participation, quality and relevance of secondary education for economically disadvantaged and marginalized children in developing countries.

This keystone partnership, Educate!’s most significant to date, will enable us to expand our proven model to Northern Uganda, reaching over 80 new schools and more than 25,000 additional students in this region alone in 2016. Northern Uganda is a post-conflict region and the most impoverished area of Uganda with a poverty rate twice as high as the next-poorest Ugandan region. PSIPSE’s investment will enable Educate! to improve life outcomes for youth in this vulnerable region by providing them with 21st century business and employability skills.

PSIPSE’s investment will also allow Educate! to make big strides toward international expansion.  This support will open up opportunities to explore program development in other African countries, bringing us one step closer to achieving our 10-Year-Vision of reaching one million youth annually across Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Projects selected by PSIPSE pilot new approaches, bring to scale successful models, and research critical questions about how to improve quality and access in secondary education while reducing costs.  “Secondary education is a critical step in a young person’s journey to higher education or the workforce,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation.  “This partnership is testing new ideas and scaling approaches that have the potential to transform how young people access education, while also improving the quality and relevance of what is being taught.”

The PSIPSE consortium is a major growth partner whose support will enable Educate! to reach the next level as an organization. We are truly thrilled at the prospect of the many lives we will impact together!

World Youth Skills Day 2015: Education for Life Outcomes

In honor of the first ever World Youth Skills day, Loren Crary, Educate!'s Director of External Relations, and Nicole Goldin, Educate! board member and Senior Associate and Director of the Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, each authored a piece discussing the importance of skills-based education.  

Loren's post on Youth Economic Opportunities tackles the question "Are we improving the lives of the students we reach as we enroll more of them?"

"Education is increasingly recognized as the most valuable investment we can make in youth globally. At the highest level, the goal of that education is to improve lives. But are we fulfilling our obligation to invest in education that achieves that goal?"

In her piece "Every Day Should be World Youth Skills Day", Nicole discusses the critical importance of using skills-based education to address the skills gap that is a key contributing factor to the youth employment crisis.

Educate! provides a skills-based model of education that is directly tied to positive life outcomes, including improved livelihoods, increased business and job creation, improved community participation, and improved 21st Century/employability skills.

Top Student Enterprises Compete in National Business Competition

On April 25th Educate! held its National Student Business Club competition to exhibit and celebrate the huge achievements of its 2014 Business Clubs! The competition was an opportunity for Scholars to showcase their Club projects, as well as the public speaking, presentation and business skills they learned through Educate!.

Clubs from all of the 238 schools that Educate! partnered with in 2014 were invited to participate in eighteen regional competitions across Central and Eastern Uganda. Judges selected one exceptional Club from each of Educate!’s eighteen Community Units to advance to the National Competition in Kampala, and each Club nominated ten members to represent the Club at Nationals.


On the day of the Competition, 180 top Educate! Scholars and Club members flooded the St. Augustine Conference Center at Makerere University in Kampala, carrying boxes of their products, marketing banners and Club reports to be submitted for judging. Products ranged from very easy to transport (herbal soaps, all-natural mosquito repellent and shoe cream) to very challenging (energy-efficient incubators and a rabbit hutch with live rabbits!).

Scholars traveled anywhere from one to ten hours to attend the event, and for many students, it was their first-ever trip to the big city. The excitement level continued building throughout the day as Clubs presented their projects to judges and guests, including representatives from the Ministry of Education and National Curriculum Development Centre, Barclays and Centenary Banks and Educate! partner organizations, as well as media outlets, including NTV and the Daily Monitor.

At the end of the day, all eighteen Clubs were recognized for their outstanding achievements, and four Clubs received trophies and cash prizes for accomplishments in innovation, social impact, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. The top 300,000 UGX prize was awarded to St. Anthony’s in Masaka, a rural district southwest of Kampala. St. Anthony’s not only ran a successful business, but used their profits to establish a Savings & Credit Cooperative through which they plan to help members pay university tuition after graduation. See St. Anthony’s and the other winning clubs celebrate here!

The Educate! Experience named a 2015 WISE Awards Finalist

Educate! is thrilled to share that our flagship program, The Educate! Experience, is one of fifteen projects named a 2015 WISE award finalist, chosen for providing one of the most innovative and effective approaches to current global education challenges.

WISE (the World Innovation Summit for Education), was established by the Qatar Foundation in 2009 to identify and promote compelling and innovative solutions to today’s most pressing challenges in education. By promoting collaboration and originality, WISE provides a global platform for the development of new ideas and solutions that will revitalize education. We are thrilled to be a part of this global effort to solve the greatest challenges facing education today.

Stavros N. Yiannouka, Chief Executive Officer of WISE, said, “This year the WISE Awards Finalists again demonstrate how sustainable, creative solutions help overcome barriers to education and transform lives everywhere. These grass roots efforts are having a positive impact on their communities. Our role at WISE is to help disseminate excellence in education on a global scale.” 

It is an honor to have been selected as a 2015 WISE Awards Finalist by a jury of international education experts, and we stand in excellent company among the other Finalist projects. To learn more about the 2015 WISE Awards Finalists see our Press Release.

Educate! Featured on Brookings Blog

Brookings’ Millions Learning Project has featured on their blog a preliminary case study featuring Educate!. The Brookings Institution is the foremost thought leader in international education. We greatly respect their work, and we are thrilled and honored to be featured by them.

Our favorite lines from the feature: 
"Perhaps infused by the DNA of its founders, Educate! is ambitious in its plans and impatient to achieve them. At the same time, it has been thoughtful and deliberate in its expansion—listening and learning from other’s experiences, making difficult choices where needed, and ultimately moving closer to its goal of ensuring that young people in Africa are equipped with the skills and competencies needed to drive long-term sustainable development in their countries."

Brookings’ Center for Universal Education launched the Millions Learning Project to explore ways to improve learning and examine educational programs and policies designed to scale effectively and efficiently. Millions Learning will launch a final study in fall 2015, drawing lessons from a number of cases to help inform future policy, practice and investment decisions.

In the summer of 2014, the project published a blog inviting people and organizations to submit case studies. Out of more than 100 cases reviewed, Educate!’s was chosen as one of 9-12 cases that Millions Learning will look at more in depth and likely to be profiled in their final report! The blog highlights some of Educate!’s successes thus far (investing heavily in monitoring and evaluation, financial sustainability and designing for scale from the outset). The focus of the project is to learn from case studies and research what works and what doesn’t to scale effectively. Educate! hopes to learn even more from the final research as we continue to scale.  We are excited to be working closely with the Brookings Institution on this project!