Recently I had the opportunity to interview Peter Yobo and Pichon Duplan, the founders of the nonprofit iStandAbove, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization that provides the people of the world with the best tools and techniques to maximize the resources around them by creating a connected environment, a sharing network, a mindset of becoming more. They had a number of great insights and advice to share. Thanks guys!
What inspired you to start iStandAbove?
Peter Yobo and Pichon Duplan: “We’ve been pretty competitive since we were young, both with one another and in general. When we moved to the US we realized that there was a lot that we could pick up, combine with our Ghanaian upbringing, and really just leverage to grow and develop. The key to being successful was taking this inner passion and strength, and translating it into an impact and outcome focused initiative. That’s what really pushed us to buckle down, put our heads together, and really figure out a problem that we were committed to solving. That’s how we came up with iStandAbove.”
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Pichon Duplan: “You need a system that works! We started with our heads down wanting to help anyone and everyone, till we realized our impact was being felt on a breadth rather than depth scale. Standing Above is something you must re-learn every day. It's a mindset you must sharpen consistently. So if I’d known what we now know earlier on, we would have focused on our internal and external systems. Making sure our systems were sustainable, allowing us to replicate our programs all over the world with little or no divergence from the expected impact.”
What is it like to split your time between a full time job and running a nonprofit?
Peter Yobo: “It's everyday life. My full time job is exactly that, a full time job. However, in iStandAbove we teach our students to recognize opportunities in every situation. I put this into practice by viewing my full-time job as my own classroom. I’m lucky to have a job that stretches me, and teaches me so much that I’m able to take back and apply to iStandAbove.
While it can be a bit of a juggling act, running iStandAbove is more like hanging out with a group of my smartest and most motivated friends. We’re all passionate about the same things and push and encourage each other to think outside the box always..
I think both Pichon and I would agree that we’re fortunate enough to be in a position where we get to spend our time learning, brainstorming and really paying attention to what’s going on around us and the kind of impact that we can have on it.”
What general advice would you give to current and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Pichon Duplan: “While passion, motivation and a dream are important, you also need a stellar team. You need to have a board that you can take ideas to, and in turn they’ll push you to answer questions and often acknowledge and address flaws in your logic. It’s generally a good idea to go with older people, just because they have a lot of experience and perspective under their belts; however, as long as you find people who are invested in helping you succeed you are pretty much guaranteed honest feedback.
It’s also important to live like a CEO. This isn’t talking about lifestyle and material wealth, but more about developing the personality of a CEO - Leadership, Solution Thinking, Vision, Thirst for Knowledge to name a few. You need to be your brand, build an executive team, come up with ideas, prompt your team to think of solutions and figure out how to tie everything together. I make it a point to continuously build my network and form relationships with those who have knowledge in areas where I am not well versed and continue to learn each and everyday on how I and my team can be the best at what we do.”
In your experience, what does it mean to run a nonprofit like a business?Peter Yobo: “A lot of people start nonprofits, thinking that they can just run it like they would a college club or organization. In reality, however, a strong nonprofit needs all of the same structures that a for-profit business needs. For us this means having stellar Leadership, Fundraising, HR, and Innovation teams that drive our internal processes. Our strong operations team means that we can replicate our programs all over the world, in different languages, and maintain a sustainable model that allows us to excel today and continue to evolve over time. We are doing a lot of things better than when we first started, but our main focus is to definitely challenge the status quo. We hope to be able to connect with other organizations, share our growth and perspective, and look forward to the future!”
Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org