Credit: Francis Koroma, Francis at Yale Young Global Scholars, Summer 2018

October 10th, 2020

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Definition of ​ground zero
1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs
2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change
3: the very beginning
Source: ​Merriam-Webster Dictionary

If you’re a Diamond Challenge participant, odds are you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or some kind of community-minded business leader in local community. Think back to where your journey started. How did you know business or entrepreneurship was for you?

My journey started when I joined Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), an organization at my school that inspires and prepares student business leaders through relevant career preparation and leadership experiences. However, I’m lucky that FBLA existed at my school. Not every community has it.

For thousands of students around the world, the Diamond Challenge Community serves as ground zero for their entrepreneurship journey. Through our virtual and in-person pitching opportunities​, comprehensive business innovation ​curriculum​, and supportive online ​community​, it’s accessible, affordable, and allows all over the world to dig deeper into their passions. This is especially true for students outside the U.S. and in communities where students have limited access to entrepreneurship education.

I had the chance to speak with one of these students: Francis Koroma, a student in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Francis was currently on a gap year before college and preparing to enter the Watson Institute’s​ Accelerator as part of their Spring 2020 cohort, a selective program for young social innovators to launch ventures and unleash a lifetime of impact.

Francis’ impact started with the Diamond Challenge.

“Diamond Challenge helped me find my enthusiasm and passion for entrepreneurship,” Francis said. “It helped me discover my ambitions and what I need to do to unlock my full potential and achieve my dreams.”

Francis describes students in his community as “blind to entrepreneurship” before the Diamond Challenge. Many have never seen adult change-makers brainstorming ideas to solve social problems in the Freetown community, much less other young people creating and building solutions.

Amb Kalakoh, Francis’ Diamond Challenge mentor agrees. “Only about 5% of our school knows what entrepreneurship” Amb said. “I get to meet students who are capable and never quit, but don’t know how to start something to solve the problems they see.”

To tackle the lack of entrepreneurship training and understanding, Amb organized a weekly entrepreneurship training seminar for his Diamond Challenge students in Sierra Leone and developed a three-day training bootcamp. This is why Diamond Challenge is ground zero.

Credit: Amb Kalakoh, Sierra Leone Diamond Challenge Pitch Event 2018

Participating in these opportunities with Diamond Challenge Sierra Leone as both a student and a mentor allowed Francis to “work with talented and inspiring high school students from across the country.” It was a platform to learn a new set of business innovation ideas and skills, and connect with other driven and motivated students.

“The Diamond Challenge gives birth to young entrepreneurs with fruitful ideas and solutions that society needs today,” Francis said. “Seeing this really gives me confidence in myself and in today’s generation.”

Credit: Francis Koroma, Francis pitching his venture at Freetown Pitch Night

Most importantly, beyond serving as ground zero for his entrepreneurship journey, the Diamond Challenge also served as ground zero for Francis’ higher education journey. It provided Francis confidence in himself and a broader perspective of the world.

To continue taking his learning forward, Francis applied and was accepted to Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS), where he worked on a venture to address water scarcity in Freetown, Sierra Leone by 3D printing safe and affordable water tanks.

“The reality of people walking a few kilometers just to access water clean enough for consumption, the sight of children in streams or taps standing in long queues till late in the evenings just to have at least a gallon of water, the increasing number of people dying from cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery due to the consumption of contaminated water is enough,” Francis said. “The rich and resourceful manage to buy water in substantial quantities from water companies but the poor can only afford to fetch from springs, wells or community taps. It hurts to see the poor children fetching water during school hours, pregnant women carrying heavy buckets of water for sustenance, and teenage girls getting raped at riversides.”

The Diamond Challenge community showed Francis his power and ability to do something about this inequality—and so he is. Francis will continue to work on this venture at the Watson Institute, with the ultimate goal to transform his community for the better.

It wasn’t so long ago that Francis found his voice through the Diamond Challenge community in Sierra Leone.

Let Diamond Challenge be your ground zero too. Join our ​Facebook group​ today!

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No matter where our Diamond Challenge alumni go, we are constantly amazed by how they continue to make an impact on the world for the better.

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About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

Follow Horn Entrepreneurship @udhorn and check out our entrepreneurship competition for high school students @diamondchalleng.