Having started a DVD rental shop, soft commodities company and a property management agency all by the age of 26, Poku Osei decided his next venture would be in social entrepreneurship when he relocated to Bristol ten years ago.
With no prior non-for-profit sector experience, funding or social capital, the Ghanaian migrant set up Babbasa to support young people with their professional ambitions, based on the needs he witnessed as a local inner city resident.
This year, Babbasa celebrates its fifth anniversary as an established and award-winning social enterprise in Bristol, with strong brand recognition in inner-city communities and amongst Bristol young people, local authorities and more recently the Queen.
Its founder and CEO reflects on some of the highs and lows:
If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?
Without mistakes, there aren’t lessons. Without lessons, there isn’t wisdom or growth – so that’s a hard one. Two things however do pop into mind. 1: Go with your gut over your head. 2: Pay a bit more attention in school.
What advice would you have given yourself when starting?
The same advice I give to myself now I hope: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you’ve imagined.
In all things give thanks to God. And rejoice, too, when you run into problems and trials, for they will help you develop perseverance, perseverance and character. And, whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
If you knew then what you know now, would you still be sitting there?
What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
That it’s true that some people are ‘wolves in sheep clothing’. But equally true that some others are actually ‘sheep in wolf clothing’. In other words, be objective, fair and try to love unconditionally at all times.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?
What is your career highlight?
It would be the campaign that we’ve just launched called #HearOurStories to celebrate our fifth anniversary. We have embarked on capturing the stories of people who have either supported Babbasa or have been supported by Babbasa in the past – with the view of sharing these stories to inspire kindness and hope.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of the interview transcripts and it’s been fulfilling to know that I’m part of the team that created the vessel for such stories. We will start releasing them soon through our social media platforms.
What is your career low point?
At some point this year, it became apparent that I had signed a contract that was not compatible with the ethos of Babbasa or beneficial to the young people we serve. The low point was coming to terms with the mistake, terminating the contract halfway through and having to deal with the feeling of not finishing what I started.
What keeps you awake?
One of two things – the feeling of not doing enough and the feeling of excitement.
What’s changed from when you started out?
I’m a father now.
What’s still on your to-do list?
Travelling around Asia, setting up a Babbasa in Ghana, getting a Tesla and teaching my daughter, my native language, Akan.
What’s next for you in business and personally?
I’m not sure yet. But I know that I want to climb a mountain soon – literally.