Fearless - Ep. 42: "The Confidence Builder" - Kojo Marfo

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"The Confidence Builder"

My conversation with Kojo Marfo - Director and Founder, My Runway Group Kojo has a passion to change the world. He focuses on social impact through instilling self belief in young adults. His ventures - including adults. His ventures - including myrunwaygroup.com, are targeted at providing a platform for youth development and creative growth.


Three Takeaways

  • Relentlessly ask yourself, what is the right thing?
  • Don't allow circumstances to define you.
  • How do you unlock the potential of other people?

"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 42: "The Confidence Builder" Kojo Marfo

Charles:               

Hello. You're listening to Fearless. Where we explore the art and science of leading creativity. That unpredictable amorphous and invaluable resource that's critical to every modern business. Each week we talk to leaders who are jumping into the fire, crossing the chasm, and blowing up the status quo. Leaders who've mastered the art of turning the impossible into the profitable. This episode was recorded in London, at the Eurobest Festival, which is now in its 30th year highlighting, celebrating, and rewarding the best of European creativity. Visit eurobest.com for more information.

Today I'm talking to Kojo Marfo, the director and founder of My Runway Group. Kojo has a passion to change the world. He focuses on social impact through instilling self belief in young adults. His ventures, including myrunwaygroup.com, are targeted at providing a platform for youth development, and created growth.

So we are literally live at Eurobest in London today, and we are recording this, sitting under the stairs in the main entrance as people are coming in, so you're gonna hear a lot of foot traffic and background noise. Hopefully that won't take away from the conversation. I'd like to welcome you to the show. Kojo, it's great to have you on Fearless, thanks for being here.

Kojo Marfo      

Thank you very much for having me, Charles.

Charles:               

So, I like to start every show with the same question. When did creativity first show up in your life? What's your first memory of something being creative?

Kojo Marfo:       

I would say I was still in university when I had my first taste of creativity. I realized I love people who were doin' similar things. In terms of the same time of type of student parties, same type of comedy shows. And I realized for me to stand out, I would need to put a little bit of twist to it. Those times, the word "creative" was not really popping up, as we can hear it all over the place at the moment. Later when I realized it's that little touch that I was putting on to all these events I produced, is what connected me to my creative side.

Charles:               

Tell me about your childhood. Where did you grow up?

Kojo Marfo:       

I grew up in Ghana. West Africa. I was born in Accra. I'm the first son, there's four of us. I have three other siblings under my mom and dad.

Charles:               

Wow. What did you study in school back then? What were your interests in Ghana when you were growing up?

Kojo Marfo:       

I went to a private school, and I remember at the age of 10 or 11, we were studying quantitative analysis and verbal reasoning.

Charles:               

Quantitative analysis? Wow!

Kojo Marfo:       

Yes, and our proprietress was British. So she's come over to Ghana to try this new Montessori style of education, and my parents bought into the idea. They wanted to literally experiment and see how my son is gonna come out. I might back track a little bit here ... I believe my first touch of creativity was in Ghana, 'cause I remember she made us do a project ... She said "anything you want, you can do a project on it. Anything," and that was like very very new to us, 'cause that doesn't happen in any other school. And I was so much into the local music, the local hip-hop, it was called "hiplife." So it's a merge between hip-hop and then highlife, which is the local sound. So instead of rapping in English, all of the folks used to rap in our local dialect, which was Twi.

I said to myself, "I'm gonna do a project on hiplife." I was about 11, and hiplife was literally just popping up, no one was really ... There was no editorial pieces, nothing like that. And I realized that I had so much ideas that I put together the very first hiplife project. So we ended up inviting a hiplife artist called Tic Tac.

Charles:               

Tic Tac? What a great name.

Kojo Marfo:       

Yes, and this is the most interesting thing, Charles. He's come over to this school to share his experience, and speak to us. So I did like a written report about a history of hiplife, which was started by a guy called Reggie Rockstone. He used to live in America, and obviously he was into the hip-hop culture, break dancing, rap, and he moved back to Ghana. And he realized all the local youth were so much into hip-hop, and they were losing their sense of culture, and identity, so he came up with the birth of hiplife when he merged hip-hop with highlife. So we did a brief interview on land with him, over the phone, he couldn't come down.

But with Tic Tac's situation, he came over and we spoke to him about ... Like a live interview in my classroom, so we had everyone listening to Tic Tac for the first time. He wasn't performing, he was just speaking to us about how he going to [inaudible] music, and he was like the biggest artist at that moment. He had like a hit single called "Philomena." Ask any Ghanaian why ... And he says something to me I'll never forget. Right after his speech, there was a guy that was two years younger than me. He was in about class five. So Ghana, we have classes and then we have junior and secondary schools ... And the guy came midway through the conversation and handed him a piece of paper to sign, and he'd done it. After the speech, he said, "No one has ever asked me for an autograph."

Charles:               

Nobody had ever asked him?

Kojo Marfo:       

Nobody's ever asked him. It wasn't even a thing in Ghana. Everyone would probably ask for a picture or "rap to me," or something, depending on who you are." Nobody has ever asked me for an autograph." And right after that guy did that ... His name was David Hayward Mills, I will never forget. Everyone in his classroom just rushed Tic Tac, asking for an autograph. I believe that was the first time he actually felt like a real star. 'Cause, I mean he performed on stages to thousands of people, but it becomes a routine. But to have a school full of young people that are interested in your story, and interested in your come up, and also go the step further asking for you to sign a piece of paper, whatever that means to them ...

That was a turning point in my life, and I was about 11 years old then, and I must really show gratitude to Ms Florence Harris [inaudible]. So she studied at a school called Alpha Beta in Ghana, and she was so keen on creativity at a young age.

Charles:               

How did she bring that to you? How else did she help you understand what the power of creativity to be? It sounds like, from that story, you saw Tic Tac actually change, or react in [crosstalk]. You were sensitive enough to recognize that.

Kojo Marfo:       

Yes, I experienced that.

Charles:               

Pretty extraordinary moment I would imagine, to be able to get a conscious of the power of being recognized for being original. How else did she bring creativity in life for you?

Kojo Marfo:       

She also introduces a writer's and debater's club. That was my first time of even writing a poem. And again, I wrote the first poem on hiplife. I was so engaged with this new genre of music, that almost everything I did was centered around it. And I had never seen a hiplife poem anywhere. And again, I was about 12 years old at this stage. And to think this is about 16, 17 years ago, and I'm pretty sure there was nothing like that anywhere. So, it developed my writing skills

And then I remember after joining the debater's club ... We used to have these home assignments called "competitions," so we write essays about a subject line. So they give you a line for you to write essays about it, and something interesting always used to happen. I used to do everything else, than do my home assignments. And then in the morning when it was due, I would write something quickly, either on my way to school or I'd wake up a little bit earlier and then write something just to present it. And almost eight out of ten, the teacher, Mr. Santee, would read my poem or my composition essay to the audience.

And there was one particular incident where my dad was polishing his shoes, getting ready for work, and I was writing my composition on our porch area. So Ghana, all of houses have like a porch area where you can chill before you go into the main house. So I left my book there to get ready for school, and he read through some of the lines. He called me to come out, and when I came out he said, "Who wrote this?" I said it was me. He said, "Who wrote this? Stop lying to me." I said it was me. And then he just ... He didn't go into any deeper conversation, he just left it as hanging.

And it's now that I'm reconnecting those moments, and I'm thinking, that lady introduces different aspects of creativity to us at a very young age, that it made us free to express ourselves. And even when I had limited time to write something, it was coming out very epic. It was coming out something that was outstanding, and I'm so grateful to her.

Charles:               

That's extraordinary. So he'd never seen you express creativity?

Kojo Marfo:       

Never. Creativity as of this point is still blurry to a lot of Africans. My parents still ask me what I do for a living.

Charles:                Oh do they really?

Kojo Marfo:       

'Cause they can't even explain to their friends what it is Kojo Marfo does. So it's this struggle to pull us together ... 'Cause their friends don't know who a creative entrepreneur is, or who a creative is.

Charles:               

How do you describe what you do to your parents?

Kojo Marfo:       

I said "I live off my ideas." And I said, "This is pretty much the most basic explanation I can have, or I can give to you concerning what I do." And you can't blame them, 'cause I've come to realize that they came over to this country to work, and to give us a better education, and also to create a space where we can fully develop whatever we want to do. There's more freedom, and more liberation over here. They are more keen on you working to get paid, 'cause that's all that we're used to in Ghana and moving over here. So when you were saying I'm gonna stay at home and create projects, and pitch it to brands, and have [inaudible] engage in schemes and projects, is very new to them.

And as much as they will see a feature in the evening standard, or they will see you live on TV, it still hasn't sunk in that you are doing something you really wanna do. 'Cause to them, [inaudible] is very different. They don't know how you live off this. I don't ask them for money, but they still haven't come to the realization that he's actually doing what he always wanted to do.

Charles:               

How old were you when you came over to Britain?

Kojo Marfo:       

I was 18, I just turned 18. I remember three years prior to that, my mom came, 'cause my mom and dad used to live here ... My mom came down to say she's taking all of us, which is me and my siblings, to England. I just started senior secondary school. And with Ghana, senior secondary schools are boarding schools. So I went to the same boarding school that Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General went to, called Mfantsipim in Cape Coast. I remember that was the first time I've ever seen anyone from different parts of Ghana speak a different language.

I remember I was having a conversation with another guy, and his whole community pulled money together for him to come to secondary school, so they were counting on him. And it was just stories like this, and background experiences, and I was only about a month in, and my parents said, "Oh you need to come to England with us," and I said I wasn't leaving. I just felt like there was more I learn from these people. I can learn how to be independent, to have a good control over money. 'Cause you're given a budget at the start of the semester, and you have to make use of that all over the period. The boarding schools is one of those experiences I wish everyone can go through, 'cause the teachers don't really have a role in our life, apart from what happens in academics. So you meet people called seniors, who are in year two and year three, and if you're year one, they're extorting you for money. They are asking you to do certain things. I give you a good example, Charles.

So in my school, there's this thing called corruption or correction. [inaudible] we are all like 15 to 17, or 14 to 17. So they've come up with this concept called corruption or correction. So, if you get caught, let's say staying overnight, 'cause there's a time we all have to go to bed that's curfew ... Or if you get caught wearing shoes without socks, if you get caught with no ... We had to have two white handkerchiefs in our pockets every moment that you were seen. Anyone can ask you to show the two handkerchiefs, and you have to provide them. If you had one, the first thing they will ask you is "correction or corruption?" If you choose correction, they will give you a cutlass to go and weed a portion of [inaudible], to correct you. Or they'll tell you to go on your knees for like three hours. But they would present something extreme to you that you might want to say, "Okay, what's the option for corruption?"

So when you say corruption, they will say, "For what you've done, I need 30 Ghanaian cedis," which is the local currency. Or, "I need 20 Ghanaian cedis." And then you can bargain your way out and say, "I only got five. It's gonna last me for two weeks, can I give you two?" So even in that you learn so much about bargaining and dealing with other people. These times are one of my best periods of my life. I was very independent as a man. I was very clever. You couldn't take advantage of me. It's just the fact that I was just taking in all these different experiences that I've come to be a part of.

Charles:                Where do you think that desire to be independent came from?

Kojo Marfo:        The very fact that I was based in Accra. Greater Accra is the regional capital of Ghana, and the school was in Cape Coast, which was in central region. So even leaving Accra, that means I had no connections to my aunties, my friends that I grew up, my residential area that we grew up in ... And I was just thrown into this school that has this rich history, but they have all these different people that've come together to form what it was. And I realized that for me to be a figure, or for me to be recognized as myself, and not just as another [inaudible] boy, I had to stand out in different areas. I had to be clever. I had to be independent. And even though I can always call my parents and ask them to send over money [inaudible], I didn't abuse that.

So the little that I had, I was using that ... But I didn't want to come across as the rich guy, or the rich kid. So even when I could ask my parents for money, I wouldn't. And I'll make sure that I make the most of whatever I had as of that time.

Charles:                So coming to England must have been a massive adjustment for you.

Kojo Marfo:       

It was mind blowing. 'Cause this is aa guy that didn't really wanna come to England anyway. And then I just finished university. And I was struggling to come to England, 'cause I'd just turned 18, and the laws have changed and what not. When I came over, I had a culture shock 'cause I thought my parents doin' the same things they were doin' in Ghana. Which was my mum ... My sense of entrepreneurship comes from my mum. She used to have a chain of stores and businesses, and I didn't really know what my mum used to do, but she always had money coming in from different businesses that she was looking after. So I thought they were into something similar.

And then I came over, and I remember I would ask my dad what he does, and he wouldn't want to be open with me. And I would even ask my mom and it's like oh I'll tell you. So I started speaking to my little brother a bit more, and he started explaining to me about the types of jobs they do here to fund my lifestyle over there in Ghana. So I had this weird sense of guilt, and that increased my faith. From my experience in my secondary school, I remember saying to myself, "I'm never gonna ask them for money. Okay, they brought me here. I'm here now. So what I'm going to do is make the best out of me, and make sure I at least to live the life that they were living in Ghana."

Charles:               

What kind of jobs were they doing, did you find out?

Kojo Marfo:       

Yeah, my dad was a cleaner at one point, and he was up to the ranks of a supervisor. But it was just in the same space of cleaning, where you had to recruit people for like a school, hospital ... And he was being part of the activities and actually doing the cleaning. And in Ghana he was an area manager for a mattress company, the biggest mattress company in Africa called Latex Foam. So they supply everyone with mattress. To see him come to that level in terms of occupation was bit of shock to me. And then my mom was more of like a nurse for older people. I remember, or hear some conversation about how she has to wipe them up after they use the toilet, and that she doesn't want to go back to work for ... And I just felt very guilty and it shaped the way I started thinking. It made me a man quicker, and I took it from there.

Charles:               

So you came over here and you went to university over here?

Kojo Marfo:       

I came over here and I went to college.

Charles:               

Yeah, and studied?

Kojo Marfo:       

I studied, in Ghana I studied electrical science. Applied electricity, which was electrical science. So thought I to do something similar in the science area, so I enrolled in [inaudible] College. I studied physics, maps, and ICT.

Charles:               

Tell me about the evolution coming out of college and starting to hit the professional world. What was that process like?

Kojo Marfo:       

I originally found out something interesting after two weeks of staying in the country. I had come in on a visitor's visa, and it had expired after two weeks. For the rest of my life I was gonna be living as an immigrant. I had no idea who an immigrant was. What you're not allowed to do. As much as my parents tried to explain it ... And I started blaming myself, because if I'd come here earlier, everything would have been alright. But because I made that decision to stay longer in Ghana, we would have to reason why things were not going the way we wanted it to go. I've been in the country for 11 years. And for 10 years I've been living as an immigrant ... To the point where I had to switch addresses, I have to go to court. Everything that I did within those 10 years of getting live on TV, starting the youth project, getting Entrepreneur of the Year, was basically because of the decisions I had took when I realized what my parents were doin'.

I realized ... I said to myself, "Whether I'm an immigrant or not, it doesn't mean anything. I'm still gonna apply for schools. I'm still gonna apply for jobs. There must be people that are surviving as immigrant, and I don't want to be on the [inaudible]." The state of mind as an immigrant is a very different one. You don't belong here. You can be deported any time. You have to create work. So I started up doing cleaning jobs. I did about 16 lad brook shops in Northwest London, twice at night. I [inaudible] very morning before they come in, or in the evening after the are done. And lad brooks are very different type of shop. They only have Christmas day off. So for every day of your life you're working. You can't even take a day off 'cause they're open. It was just about going to ... I did about two years, and that paid for me getting around, having to build money saving towards my university, which came on later.

Charles:               

So that's an extraordinary lens. As you're living through the lens of being an immigrant, did that inform everything you were doing? Was there any part of your life that wasn't effected by that reality for you?

Kojo Marfo:       

I didn't live in that reality of being an immigrant. 'Cause I've been in cleaning jobs where I've had conversations with other immigrants. And they've been doin' it of 10 years, 8 years. Fair lay, it might not be their fault, but I didn't want to see myself in 10 years doing the same type of thing. 'Cause I realize they didn't even realize they'd been doing that for so long when I had conversation. So at some times I'll distant myself, and not be in the mental space that they were in.

Charles:               

So you in fact went exactly the opposite way. You said to yourself, "I'm not gonna acknowledge that fact. I'm gonna live the way that I want to live. I'm gonna the live the life I want to live."

Kojo Marfo:       

Yeah, and that triggered my entrepreneurship side, that got me thinking about how to create wealth and revenue, as opposed to using that as an excuse not to work, or not to be able to go to university, and anything else that you can easily state back home and say, "Well I'm not supposed to do it," or "Well, if I get caught I'm gonna be in trouble." So there was this huge risk factor, and [inaudible], I was listening to someone speak at a silent stage, and he said "Risk is the biggest enemy of creativity. That people scared about whatever, that they don't go out and do what they're supposed to do." So I went the extreme and decided that I'm gonna use this ... Well I'll call it an opportunity, to change the narrative. And that will make my story even stronger. More inspirational. It has been exactly that.

Charles:               

What was your first exposure or experience to entrepreneurship? How did that start to manifest in your life?

Kojo Marfo:       

When I enrolled in university, I only had 200 pounds to my name. I had no access to student loan, grants, nothing. I had save 200 pounds and that was it. And I had a small room, and I remember my dad saying, "Do you really wanna be here?" He drove me down with another mate of mine. I realized that for me to be a part of the community, for me to survive, for me to even graduate in 3, 4 years time, I had to find ways of making money. I had to find ways of funding myself. And if it's not gonna be the orthodox way of applying for jobs and getting it, then I was gonna create. And that's what naturally came to me, and I started producing events and other things.

Charles:               

Extraordinary. There's so many places that I'm interested in exploring with you. Talk to us about ... How did My Runway come about?

Kojo Marfo:       

So I used to be an event coordinator in my second year of university, for African Caribbean Society. My good friend, Junior, he had just become President, so he was looking for a team. He's like, "What do you wanna do?" I was like "What's available? I'll do anything." So there's like PR, there was marketing, there was hospitality, there was events. And I'm like, "Oh, I'll try my hands on events" ... We can't fail, we can just do what the team last year did and we'll get away with it. In my first year as an event coordinator, I helped put together fashion shows, and comedy shows, and end of year parties, and it went so well. Junior's name ended up on the Hall of Fame of [inaudible 00:24:50]. It was like the most amazing times of our life were very much celebrated. And people always come up to me to say, "You should do [inaudible] again, you should do this society thing again, you should do this events again." But you're only allowed to do it once like four years, or 10 years only for a year.

So I thought to myself, what would be better off for me to start my own events production company while I was in university. Again, it was just literally to fund me or myself [inaudible]. And I realized that a lot of people were taking to what I was doin', to the point that I would put up an event, and the university would put up an official event for the student [inaudible] calendar. No one would really go to this, and everyone would end up at mine. So they kind of took notice of what I was doin'. And they came up with this tailored program called Speed, for young entrepreneurs. So they said they're gonna take me to Cru for entrepreneurship weekend. I had no idea what I was gonna experience.

That kind of changed my life, 'cause I got exposed to a whole different realm of entrepreneurship. I was just doin' it for the money, and paying my fees, or doin' it for the money and paying my rent, or buying food. And this is the time where someone is speaking to me about taxes, someone is speaking to me about structure, someone is speaking to me about longevity and diversing your brand and stuff like that. And I took it so well in, when I came back I was like in this business mode. I started recruiting students ... I created another company, a media company, so I'll use photographers and videographers from the uni to cover events, get paid for it, and I diversified my portfolio, and also do events all around the year, different types of events. That just put me in the space where I realized I can really do this full time.

Charles:               

When you were starting out, did you sit down and think about what success look like? Did you plan for this is what I'm trying to achieve, or were you just responding to instinct and opportunity?

Kojo Marfo:       

I would just say just responding to instinct. I'm very good at spotting something that's not around. So the lack of something is what inspires me. So if we don't have this here, I'd want to create it instead of complaining we don't have it. So that was like the space I was in, so a lot of things that we're dealing with, we spoke and people were like, "Oh this is very new," and that's how even my runway came about. Mine was more instinct driven as opposed to following sea of everyone else.

Charles:               

What have you learned about running your own business in the process?

Kojo Marfo:       

It's not as glamorous as it looks from outside. It's a journey. You meet the most exciting, amazing, weird, interesting people. Especially when you're dealing with young people [inaudible]. I wouldn't trade what I do for anything else, because of what it does and what I receive from it. And as a creative, I've realized that your paycheck will never be financial.  So someone emails you to say, "There's a first time my parents came to see me do anything in my life," or "Can I have reference for this job?" And you get another email saying, "Oh I go the job, thank you very much." So these priceless moments are what keeps me goin. 'Cause I've had very terrible times with financial sides of running a business. For me to just even keep going is more passion driven than the creative side of any business at all.

Charles:               

And you are clearly drawn to helping people to fulfill and unlock their own potential. Where do you think that comes from?

Kojo Marfo:       

I'm very confident it came from my Christian background. Growing up in Ghana, and even moving over here, I've always belonged to Church of Pentecost. We have a very charitable side to us. So we help out the community, even if someone else is ... Someone from their family dies, every contributes towards it. So I grew up having those sentiments, and I grew up having a charitable side to me. And for some reason, even with my runway, that of about 6 years, every year we've always had a charity side to it. I don't know where that came from, but it's organically became a part of us. So I really love creating awareness about charity, really like spending time with people that value time. Connecting people so they can get their full potential, and also donating when I can.

Charles:               

Is My Runway open to anybody? How do you decide who you can support, and who should be part of it and who shouldn't?

Kojo Marfo:       

Our team build has always been organic, and word of mouth. People come to see our shows, or master classes, or seminars that we do, and they will literally just email or say "Can I be a part of it? My friend was a model, my friend was a coordinator, my friend was a creative director. I really love what you guys are doin'." So it's always just been about that. But sometimes you learn your lesson the hard way, 'cause the excitement might not be the only criteria to take someone on. So young people get excited about what they see, and then when they realize the behind the scenes work that comes with producing such ... A show, a production, or campaign in general, then that's what filters the real people that are looking to take something from this. And we've had several case studies of people that have taken their roles very serious from front of stage to back of house, started their own businesses, and are doing about amazing things in the world of creativity that I'm proud of.

Charles:               

Do you say no to people?

Kojo Marfo:       

I let other people say no to people.

Charles:               

Hahaha ...

Kojo Marfo:       

So, I never sit on the [inaudible] table, panel ... So when you're my friend, or if we follow each other on Twitter, or Instagram, and you tell me, "I'm coming down to the [inaudible] by the way," I'm like, "Yay, I hope you make it!" It's like, "Yeah, I'm very nervous." I'm like "Oh, just do you." You wouldn't see me on the panel. Automatically you would think I have no input in deciding who is gonna be part of the show. And in terms of team, we have Dockers, who is our head of HR, and then Averill, who is our team manager. So I kind of allow them to use their space to filter the right people that we need based on our job roles and opportunities that we can offer 'Cause as much as we want to help everyone, not everyone deserves out help.

Charles:               

And are you filtering based on ... Oh that's a good question, [inaudible]... Are you filtering based on talent, attitudes, disposition? When you say "not everybody deserves our help, what's one of the ... what are the criteria?

Kojo Marfo:       

It's because history has taught us that some people are only just here for the glamour, or for the glitz, and they're not ready to put work in. We receive no funding, ever. Everything goes [inaudible] by myself. Ticket sales don't even amount to half the venue price. We get treated as a corporate company. We don't get charity discounts, none of that. So, you have to have cool team of people that are willing to make this get to a level where we can attract same brands, and where we can engage our companies. And you only need people that are willing to dedicate some of their time. And probably sometimes not even get paid, but they know the potential of what this can be. And when we finally get to that space of having funding and sponsorship, they're gonna be the ones to benefit from that.

Charles:               

What do you think the conditions are that, in which creativity thrives. I mean you've seen creativity come to life in extraordinarily wide array of circumstances. What do you think are the circumstances and the conditions in which creativity thrives?

Kojo Marfo:       

I think freedom is a big element. Every creative needs a space, mental space, physical space. Every creative needs to be able to express themself. So given people the creative freedom to fully express themselves is a very vital aspect of allowing creativity to thrive. And also team selection. Some people by themselves can achieve almost nothing. It doesn't mean that they're not good at what they do. It doesn't mean that they're not of excellence. It just means that they might need an assistant to constantly remind them about how they're doin'. Or they might need to be an assistant to learn about a year, from someone that really understands the logistics of this. So the team selection is also vital for creativity to thrive, and I've realized that pairing up people that are interested in let's say hair and makeup, or creative direction, or model selection, or fashion [inaudible] ... We've got the best results when we've paired up people from different walks of life, or from different backgrounds.

Charles:               

So casting is really important?

Kojo Marfo:       

Casting is, yes. Basically that's the way that underlines everything, casting, yeah.

Charles:               

I'm struck by your humanity and your generosity of spirit, and also by the fact that you're balancing that, or combining that with the desire to build a successful business. If you roll forward a year from now, where do you want to be? What do you want to have achieved by then? What do you hope you have accomplished?

Kojo Marfo:       

I believe we've shown that we can do this by ourselves. But I believe that we can do so much more for ourselves, and for other people, especially young people and the [inaudible]. If we get the right support. I'm trying my best to liaise with other brands, and bring on board a brand liaison officer, and a sponsorship coordinator to just fully focus on our brand engagement, and in our funding side of things. 'Cause sometimes you wanna help so many people, but you're financially handicapped.

Not to discredit anyone, but you have a look at some of the other things that are receiving huge funding, and you realize what the criteria is. 'Cause you have real-life case studies of people that you've supported that run their own successful PR companies, that are faces of worldwide brands, and that are doin' amazing things off the back of the experience that they've got from you, and I don't see why we wouldn't take any boxes at all. So it's a bit frustrating taking all the boxes that [crosstalk], and then the finer box of funding that closed your conversation never happened. So sometimes it's a bit frustrating. But we keep pushing.

Charles:               

What are you afraid of?

Kojo Marfo:       

I'm not too sure what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of not reaching our full potential because of reasons being beyond my control. Be a disease, or an accident, or something we're probably not sure caused that ... My limit, what I really ... 'Cause I feel like I still have so much in me, and I've been able to accomplish a lot in my 20s, and apart from starting a family in my faith, I'm looking forward to having a global impact, and domination in different aspect in terms of ... 'Cause I believe creatives speak the same language, so running projects in Africa, in Tokyo, in New York, in different parts of Europe, all under the My Runway umbrella. I need strength and health to be able to do that, and the right funding of course.

Charles:               

Do you think that it's gonna be different as you expand across boundaries, across international geographies? Do you think that the problems there are gonna be different, or do you think unlocking creativity is based on some fundamental truths?

Kojo Marfo:       

I think it's really based on some fundamental truths. Our ethos and principle is literally being a platform for youth development and creative growth. That has been very evident when we produce our very first show, for just students in Coventry in diversity. Now we grew up to become a community, where for the first time locals from Coventry were engaging with students, and working toward the same production. That had never happened. And we took it to another level, where we thought instead of just focusing on the community, we're gonna focus on the same region.

For the very first time, we attracted models, teams, experts from Birmingham, Lester, Coventry, Warwick, Loveborough, about a team of almost 200 young people working on the same project. That had never happened. Even after us. So we've skilled up and still kept our core principle, or our core ethos. And even when I felt like we had got to glass ceilings in the Midlands, and moved it eventually to London, it had never changed the way that we develop our youth community the way that we express our charitable sides, and the way that we run our creative production.

I feel like we fully understand what our ethos is. We fully understand where want to be. And as long as we stay true to our identity, I don't think money's gonna ever change us. It's just gonna bring out more of what we really want to do.

Charles:               

Amazing. I wrap every show with three takeaways that I've heard, that I think make you successful, more than successful.

One clearly, enormous determination. Just a relentless determination to do the right thing. Both in terms of your own potential and in terms of people around you that you care for.

Two is I think an extraordinary sense of optimism about what is possible, and looking at circumstances and saying ... Not allowing circumstances to define you, and being hopeful that there I a better future out there.

And then third, clearly, is just an extraordinary level of care for unlocking the potential of other people around you, and that just seems to be remarkably genuine and deep felt. Do those ring true to you?

Kojo Marfo:       

I would say ... No one has described me in three things, but you've really highlighted some of the things I haven't even paid attention to, but I've expressed in my years as being a creative entrepreneur. So thanks for that. I'm probably gonna add that to my bio and say "This is the man I am." Hahaha ...

Charles:               

Hahaha ... Well I think it's clear to me that it is the man you are. Kojo Marfo, thank you for taking the time today.

Kojo Marfo:       

Thanks for having me.

Charles:               

I think you are really on more than a journey or mission. It's incredible to see what you're doing, and the different you're making. Thanks for being here.

Kojo Marfo:       

Much appreciate, thank you for having me.

Charles:               

You've been listening to Fearless from Eurobest. If you like what you've heard, please take a moment and rate the podcast on iTunes. It makes a big difference. And check out more of the Eurobest content at eurobest.com. Thanks for listening.