By the time he was 10 years old Sheikh was spending his nights sleeping under a blue tarp in a crowded refugee camp in the Ivory Coast. In his sleep he dreamed of a swift and quick return to his native Liberia. As the years passed and the civil war only escalated, Sheikh decided he wanted to fight to bring back his country…at the age of 13. His father convinced him otherwise.
“He told me, ‘If you go and fight, you will die. This war will pass,
and you will be much more valuable to Liberia educated than dead.’”
At long last 14 years after leaving Sheikh and his family returned home to Liberia, only to find the country in shambles. He was driven to help rebuild his country and thought about applying to be a police officer, but quickly realized that was not the best way to help.
“You can make a good steady salary as a police officer, but having a steady income
while most of the country is starving with no hope isn’t going ot help Liberia for the future.”
Then one day Sheikh witnessed something that blew his mind. He saw a line of former child-soldiers waiting to trade in their guns…for a mere $150. It hit him that there was nothing beyond that $150 for these kids. They were uneducated and many of them displaced. After that mere $150 was gone, they would have no idea when nor where their next meal would come from.
Before the war Liberia, was known throughout the world for it’s cocoa production. Nearly a decade and a half of fighting left these once prosperous cocoa fields abandoned and overgrown. Here is where Sheikh saw opportunity. By reinvigorating the cocoa industry in Liberia, he could help bring his country out of the ashes of war while creating employment for the former child soldiers lacking the education and skills to find employment elsewhere.
With 100 bucks in his pocket, Sheikh set out to get the farming communities on board with his idea. When he got there he saw them all famished, not having had food for days. So with 42 of the 100 bucks to his name, Sheikh bought a bag of rice, cooked it, and shared it with the entire community. They were so grateful for his charity, that when Sheikh proposed the idea of them revitalizing the farms together, there wasn’t even a moment of hesitation.
And thus Desert Trading, Inc was born. With that $42 bag of rice Sheikh has built a company that operates on three completely revitalized farms, employs 50 former child soldiers, and last year made $72,000 in revenue. Just a few weeks ago Sheikh boarded a plane for the first time in his life en route to Boulder to come to the Unreasonable Institute. By capitalizing on the resources of Unreasonable, from getting mentorship on how to form cooperatives to getting connected to capital partners, Sheikh is working to ensure that his company succeeds. He’s working so hard because his success means the success of his country, the success of his brothers and sisters in Liberia, the success of hope.