At the helm of IBS Career Education Corp. (IBS Consulting) sits Shamima Opoku, a forward-thinking entrepreneur who is noticeably shaking up the education consulting industry with innovative approaches and infectious enthusiasm within Africa. However, her youthful appearance can be deceiving and completely mask the fact that she has helped over 2000 students secure their dream jobs and schools and facilitated approximately $152 million through client negotiations. IBS alumni have excelled at institutions such as Netflix, Mercedes Benz, ScotiaBank, MIT, Cornell, and McGill University. Shamima has already steered IBS into an acquisition and 7-figure valuation which is quite a feat for a 23-year-old first-time businesswoman. But what’s the driving force behind this leader? In this interview, Shamima pulls back the curtain on her journey as a business leader, shares her vision for the future of education, and offers insightful advice for anyone passionate enough to take the risk of pursuing their start-up idea.
Q: What inspired you to start IBS? And what challenges did you face as a young leader in an otherwise untapped industry? How did you overcome them?
A: During Covid, I felt unproductive. I had always been a great student, so IBS initially came to me as an idea of helping students get good grades, and then once I got into it, I realized there was so much more I could do. I was good at writing, so I tried my hands at educational consulting, and the first person I helped with an application ended up getting ten acceptances in the UK.
I scouted the market and realized that a lot of my friends were starting hair and makeup businesses and I was not good at those. I realized I was good at writing and decided to take that further. Another thing that influenced my decision to start IBS was my issues with seeking employment in Canada. I decided to take a calculated risk and created IBS. I created something I needed and hoped that others would need it too.
When it comes to challenges in the industry, there is ageism. A lot of people learn of your age and think of you as less experienced. There is also a bit of ignorance about the industry and whether it’s an actual job, despite there being consultancies whose fees exceed $700,000 for educational consulting. My way of overcoming these challenges is by showing excellent results and being consistent in the work I do. Not a lot of businesses can say they’ve been in this business for as long as IBS has and have actively improved their offerings over the years.
Q: Educational and career consulting is evolving. What emerging trends are you most excited about, and how does your company plan to adapt and contribute to shaping the future of education and employment?
A: I am most excited about the Implementation and utilization of technology and that has translated into IBS as a product offering we’re launching this year called Flaunt. It is an AI-powered tool that will provide personalized feedback for your Resume or Grad School CV in minutes. We hope that it will reduce the average turnaround time when it comes to prepping CVs for clients and other professional or educational documents in the future. Also, I am excited about younger people taking up more senior positions in the corporate world. The idea that one needs to be older to fill a certain position is slowly dying away and I’m here for it.
Q: Do you own any other businesses apart from IBS?
A: I own a holdings investment company called Mankfort Capital Holdings. It is centered on real estate, one of my interests, given its long-term benefits, especially equity growth. I also manage a Food Import Company which has exclusive rights to certain European products on the Ghanaian market. Another thing I dabble in is the beauty-on-demand delivery industry, with a tech company called BeautRoute.
Q: How do you balance the responsibility of being a young CEO with personal growth and well-being?
A: Honestly, it feels like there’s no balance sometimes. Some days are crazy. There are days when I’m behind my desk for 8-10 hours non-stop just so I can get through my outstanding tasks from my team. There are a lot of days when I feel my responsibilities truly overshadow my personal growth and well-being because sometimes sacrifices need to be made. Whenever I can, I try to prioritize rest and self-care. Massages are one thing that I can’t end a month without doing. Also, I love bubble baths–I can sit in a tub for over 3 hours because that’s when I’m at my calmest.
Q: Share 3 lightning insights: one surprising thing you’ve learned as CEO, one piece of advice for students, and one thing you wish everyone knew about the world of employment today.
A: One surprising thing I have learned as CEO is the importance of failing. I am quite a perfectionist, and so I struggle with failure. I have always set high standards for myself, and it is very hard to accept that I am not good at something. But over the years, I have learned to fail fast and fail often. Recover fast from your failures. You can always make up for it when you recover fast so put systems in place to help you do that. A piece of advice for students is that whenever you can, take calculated risks. Educational Systems are set up in a very linear way that life isn’t. Welcome challenges, and try different paths. The road less traveled is potentially more rewarding.
Q: So what is an Acquisition and what does that mean to your business at this point? Also, care to share how much you sold for?
A: I CERTAINLY can’t disclose how much I sold for lol. But in simple terms, it just means that I now share the business with other owners. And the good part about this is also that I now get to bear/split the risks with others as well. There is a lot I don’t know about how business works so I am grateful for the experienced guidance.
My acquirers have been doing business for about 20 years now.
Q: What is next for you Shamima? What should the world expect?
A: Everything. I am quite young so all I have is time. I intend to spend the rest of my life trying new things, failing forward, and succeeding simultaneously as I go.
January ✨ pic.twitter.com/0VAsNKzq6R— 𝘚𝘩𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘮𝘢 🦅 (@thesixwriter) January 30, 2024