Barrier Breaker of the Month of February 2021
The Barrier Breaker of the month of February 2021 Is….
Dr. Ismail Badjie founder of Innovarx Global Health Limited (IGH). IGH is a business-to-business (B2B) solutions and Business to Customer (B2C) provider formed to become the premier clinical services and technology solutions company in The Gambia, West Africa. It is registered and headquartered in Charlotte, NC USA, and established its first franchise in The Gambia in 2019 with prospects of franchising in other West African countries. http://www.igh.gm
Reason why you started Innovarx
I am trained as a Pharmacist. I got my Doctor of Pharmacy from Purdue in 2013 and practicing as a health care professional in The US. I fell in love with Community Pharmacy, because you got to see what a lot of people go through to stay healthy. I was working a lot in rural America while living in a city and it dawned on me that what I was offering in remote areas where there were not a lot of access, were individuals like my mother and peoples grandmothers who had the same challenges to quality healthcare. I think when you say healthcare in Africa, people never associate assurance with that because there is always uncertainty. That’s where the idea of “hey you know I’m really good at doing something in the US but I’m one out of a million Docotrs of Pharmacist in The US but I could take this concept as raw as it is and take it back home and give access to a lot of peoples mothers including my mother an opportunity to get the health care that they deserve”. I knew Technology in this day and age makes it easier to create things that were never imaginable and health care especially. So we leaned on Technology and built a company that all we wanted to do is bring assurance back into the health system using Technology.
What did your Family think about your decision to move back home
They just wanted to make sure that I believed in what I was getting away to do. Luckily I started Innovarx as a company in 2015. It was about a four to five year period from the moment I registered the company in The US to when the Franchise in The Gambia opened. A lot of work went into it. A lot of travelling, a lot of market research etc. So it was not an overnight decision. My family were involved in the process and they knew I did my due diligence. It wasn’t just a flavor of the month idea that I wanted to do and I had a strong conviction. After that it’s just support, encouragement and they’ve been the pillar behind why I’ve been able to do it because without their support I would not have been able to do it. Family has been my anchor from the beginning and still is. My wife is tremendously supportive and I don’t think Innovarx will happen without a supportive partner.
When you’re about to do something, maybe start a business, or want to embark on a course, you must ensure that you do proper research, get your findings, try to get some internships here and there in that field etc. The reason being you can’t just wake up one morning and want to do something. Sometimes you can but when you want to do something long term, you’ve got to do some homework before presenting it to your family or whoever you think is important to share with example a Mentor or Partner because they may ask you questions and you must be ready to answer them. Do not go unprepared or else you will be deemed not serious.
Also shout out to supportive Family and Partners. The job of an entrepreneur is not an easy one. It takes hard work and commitment and if you do not have people who’ve got your back, it can be very depressing or lonely sometimes.
Creating a space for your kids as an Entrepreneur
I think it’s so powerful because it just allows them to not let another entity, human being or idea place a limit or define what their value is. I have moments where I sit down and realize that I do not have any recollection of my mum having a boss. She ran her business that she took from my grandmother and made it into something bigger. So she being able to do so much with the ideas that she had, changed my perspective on going to work and just waiting on the next pay raise or the next award because you’re putting limitations on that. For females, for example my daughter, we know that when given opportunities, females outperform men. Our Society Gambia especially is very patriarchal, they stifle so many potentials. So from the get go, I want to have that relationship where she realizes that only she can define what her value is and if she has that level of confidence, she could work in the world knowing that she is everything she wants. I think it’s important but it has to start early because society has unintentional ways sometimes of limiting peoples potential making them not think beyond a certain scope.
What Conversation did you wish you had when you were young
- Getting to know my identity as a Gambian and not the school version but more, “you’re off these people, these were the skills that were uniquely gifted with them, my rich African heritage” etc. Plus I think it would have added a different mindset.
- Financial Literacy is so important. That’s something I wish my younger version would have had a lot more detail. They train you to get a job not to build wealth and I think whatever it is, if you get the information at 17 and not at 30, you have a better chance of knowing how to put pieces together to make sure your kids are not faced with the same stifles of a lack of financial literacy that a lot of us struggle from. Having a knowledge of this would have made mistakes easier to avoid.
Jois: I totally agree with Dr. Badjie. There were some things I wish I knew when I was younger and financial literacy is one of them. How to save, how to invest etc. It’s not at 30 that you want to learn that. Especially when you move to this part of the world and now have to grasp an understanding of what a credit card is and how to build a good one too. I struggled with that in London and so when I moved to the US I was not going to play with that. I had learnt from experience and knew to do better. Getting to know about stocks and stock options as well as other investments would have been great to know.
Dr. Badjie: It feels like the game was rigged, like they put a blindfold over our eyes. If they tell you that success is getting a good job and getting a paycheck every month, they are not giving you accurate information. You can buy stocks so that when you’re sleeping, your money is still working for you. Which is why financial literacy for African people and young kids, needs to be taught. Teach them how money works if not they will always be working for money. You will never generate generational wealth if your soul income is a “GOOD JOB”. The game has been rigged for a while but we have an opportunity to have more conversations with our kids at a very young age and letting them know about compound interest, what value appreciation/depreciation is etc. I think we have hope because we are aware of it but we’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities because of a lack of knowledge.
No matter how good your idea is, you have to grapple with people not giving you the benefit of the doubt. They’ve been consuming things of a lesser standard and quality for a while but the adoption rate takes some time. That’s why you have to be patient with the process and just stay true to what it is you want to do and just keep on doing it every single day all year round.
The other challenge is, with any business, you need funding, you need capital, you need resources. Africa has never been a good place especially Gambia to get capital to run a business and on the flip side a lot of investors from the outside are looking in. There just has not been an influx of successful companies for them to trust our market. So you have to manage that and that’s why a lot of planning and due diligence goes into the process of building a company.
Also the day to day of running a business comes with a lot of uncertainties. For example Covid happened, luckily my business was not one that was affected but if Innovarx was a food and beverage or hospitality company in 2020, we will not be having this conversation. So there is also an element of just good fortune. Serendipity happens when you least expect it. Stay true to why you’re doing it. Our ‘Why’ as Innovarx has always been that Gambians deserve to have access to better health care. We want our grandmothers to live longer. There’s about 1 doctor to 10,000 Gambians. There’s just not enough Doctors. Stay true to your why and it makes the challenges a little bit easier. Any entrepreneur that you talk to, challenges is part of their job. Naturally, you’re a firefighter. If you do not have challenges, that means your company is not growing, if you do not have challenges, you’re just not moving in the right direction. So it comes with it. You just learn how to process it and keep Faith.
Jois: As an entrepreneur myself, I have seen how hard it’s been. The struggle is real but I get little reminders like someone texting me to say how they enjoyed a discussion on the podcast or knowing that someone you never knew was listening is actually listening. Or someone sharing a post means something to me and this happens on days when I am down or tired or wondering why. So when I get these little reminders I just know I am being a blessing to someone and that I am on the right track.
To be patient but also hold yourself accountable first before you hold someone else around you accountable. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is to always be in a reflective state. To know what’s going on on the inside because it affects so much of your outside and just how you deal with people. Patience is not just waiting but it is ‘what’s your mindset’, ‘what’s your attitude’, while you’re waiting for the right opportunity to do what you’re always destined to do. And also being prepared while patient at the same time.
ADVICE FOR ANYONE AFRAID OR HAVING DOUBTS
Don’t ignore it but try to understand it. Anytime you’re going to embark on a journey that is fearful, preparation looks like you taking deep inventory within yourself to see if you’ve done your homework. Is it a skill or a product that you want to sell. Ask yourself, have I read every single book? Have I done all the research? Have I done all the due diligence to know that I could put my best foot forward? This allows you to be a little more prepared. So I think you have to acknowledge it but not necessarily accept it. It’s as if when people doubt you there’s a quote from a point ‘IF’. You always have to make room for people’s doubt. If someone doubts you, make room for it because it allows you to take inventory to see that maybe I don’t have all my bases there. So their doubt could be from a place of protection. Once your conviction is strong, you just have to go for it because you make zero percent of the shots that you don’t take. Not acting is the worst feeling because it leaves you with places of guilt, resentment, regret and all these emotions that take a toll.
ALWAYS ACKNOWLEDGE THE FEAR & DOUBT BUT ALSO DIG WITHIN AND SEE IF YOU’VE DONE EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO GET YOURSELF AS PREPARED AS POSSIBLE FOR WHAT IT IS THAT YOU WANT TO DO AND AFTER THAT JUMP, JUST JUMP – Dr. Ismail Badjie
“The cave you fear holds the treasure you seek” – Joseph Campbell
Thank you Dr. Badjie for taking time out to have this conversation. I am super grateful.
For more information and or to support IGH follow them on IG here https://instagram.com/innovarxglobal?igshid=1jp9mt2w6lit4 or on their website https://www.innovarxglobal.com/
A section of the IGH Pharmacy in The Gambia