Fatou Saine Gaye started her entrepreneurship in 2007 with Njorro Hair Plus, a hair dressing salon. Two years later, she transformed the salon into a skills training center for girls and young women to learn hair dressing, beauty cosmetology and massage therapy. It started with 14 students, all of whom are currently either employed elsewhere or have started their own businesses.
For her social impact, Fatouwas awarded the Social Entrepreneurship prize by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2016.
She’s the guest in our maiden edition of The Entrepreneur sub-column.
About Gaye Njorro Skills Academy: “It started in February 2009 February. So we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year. We have an annex in Farafenni which we opened in 2011 to discourage illegal migration. Our motive is to get the youths off the streets and give them a marketable skills for economic opportunities and self-reliance. We have trained and certified over 2000 youths over the years and we will graduate over 200 others in March in different skills including hairdressing, aesthetics, cooking and catering, and IT.”
Challenges: “Lack of adequate funds to train the youths, especially in the rural areas where there are so many young people who want to learn skills. We’re not financially able to cater for all of them. We had some funding to train and certify over 600 youths in Farafenni. That was good. So If we have more funding, we’ll be able to get more youths out in the communities and train them to look after themselves and their communities, so they don’t think about taking the road to Europe.”
Your day-to-day activities as an Entrepreneur: “Very hectic because I am involved in a lot of things. I do trainings for the EMPRETEC Gambia program. I also train for FIYB under the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and participate in most of the boards to empower youth.”
The unique thing about your business: “The creativeness that we do makes the business so unique.We create and we have a competitive edge over others. We think out of the box and we add value to each and every work that we do. We do not train the youth on the skill.We try to make sure that they have a diverse set of thinking; to do things that people will look at and say wow they are amazing. Wherever we train them, we hardly find jobs for them. They become job creators.They either work for themselves or they get employed immediately after the training. The motto is to get them off the streets and give them the skills to empower them so they can empower others.”
If you are to start this business all over again, what would you do differently?: “I’d just continue from where I am and work really hard to empower more youths because my passion is to see people excel and the youths that I train, anytime I turn around and see what they do in the community, anywhere you go, if you see any good saloon, knock the door and you will see Gaye Njorro products in there. Go to any school across country, and you’ll see a Gaye Njorro product there. Every year we give two scholarships to the disabled. We’ve partnered with disabled organisations to make sure that we get them out and train them.
The future of your business: We are planning to open an annex very soon in another region and we would like to reach the other regions just to get all the youths in the country outright so that they can have the skills to contribute to the development of the Gambia.”
Your advice to young people who are starting up businesses
Be bold, be very curious to know that there is a lot out there, to look out to problems and turn them into business opportunities