When describing the experience of running WAVE (West Africa Vocational Education), Misan Rewane (MBA 2013) is frank. “It’s been a wild ride. I’ve learned so much, both about myself and how to motivate people.”
Rewane cofounded WAVE with three HBS classmates immediately after graduation, returning to her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, to make good on the organization’s mission to combat youth unemployment by identifying, training, and placing graduates of the program’s 3-week training program in entry-level jobs. Two years after its founding, WAVE has served 244 participants; 80 percent have been placed in or found jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors, earning at least twice the minimum wage on average. By 2019, its target goal is to train 25,000 unemployed youth annually.
“We want to write the playbook for how to hire for attitude and train for skills so that young people are included in the labor market today,” says Rewane. “This is not just a West Africa problem—it’s a global problem. We’re learning from on-the-ground implementation, looking to work in partnership with bigger players like government and employers who really have the ability to take this to the next level.
“WAVE was developed and inspired by interactions with HBS peers, faculty, and alumni, as well as the enabling environment and programs run by SEI and the Harvard i-lab,” she continues, noting that WAVE was runner-up in the Social Enterprise Track of the HBS New Venture Competition (NVC). There, Rewane and her cofounders made a key connection with two NVC judges who also happened to serve as managing directors for the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRKF). “They told us hey, we’d love the team to meet with you before you head back to Nigeria,” she recalls. Six months later, WAVE received an early vote of confidence when it was added to the foundation’s portfolio. “Almost all of our other funders have come through connections with the DRKF,” says Rewane. “We can thank the Social Enterprise Initiative and the New Venture Competition for that opportunity.
“HBS gave me the audacity to think I could do this,” she adds. “It changes your perspective of what you think you can achieve and how you want to make that big difference in the world.”