Meet the Alumni Accelerator Award winners

More than 25 JA alumni from 16 countries applied with their great ideas to win one of the two cash prizes for the JA Alumni Accelerator Award, sponsored by FedEx.

This award enables two JA alumni to move their business ideas from theory to reality, giving them the support they need and putting them in the driver’s seat.

And the winners are . . .

Winner: Edumus

Award: US$12,000

Founder: Maria Rahamägi

Country: Estonia – Europe

Edumus helps working specialists to go to school to teach one class and one subject at a time.

“I participated in the JA Company Program in 2009–2010 when I created a reflector bag company called R3,” said Edumus founder Maria Rahamägi, a JA alumnus from Estonia. “Even though I did not join the alumni organization right away, I started volunteering for JA, helping organize the JA Europe Company of the Year Competition in 2014, which got my true alumni experience started.”

Maria has been involved in JA alumni events ever since, starting with the JA Alumni Conference in Copenhagen in 2015, and organizing the National Coordinators Meeting (NCM) in her hometown of Tallinn, Estonia. In 2017, she worked alongside other local JA alumni volunteers to host the 2018 NCM in Estonia. “That year and a half was the greatest alumni experience one could wish for,” she said. The team of ten alumni volunteers successfully executed the largest alumni conference to that point, hosting over 200 alumni around the world. “The processes of organizing the conference was my greatest entrepreneurial effort so far. And when that project was over I knew I had to start something new and even bigger to pour my passion into.” She continued, “I started to think that if we in JA alumni enjoy teaching and inspiring younger students as our voluntary work, then why not create a similar experience for professionals in other fields as well. The idea for Edumus was born, I just did not know it yet.

“With Edumus, I aim to inspire and enable professionals across fields and countries to share their passion with students by teaching. Through my JA experience I had learned that investing in education has by far the greatest returns one could wish for.”

What will you use the prize money for? Edumus is currently self-funded. The JA Alumni Accelerator Award funding will be used to develop the platform to enable greater scalability.

Winner: Shasha Network

Award: US$7,500

Founder: Farai Munjoma

Country: Zimbabwe – Africa

Farai Munjoma joined JA in Zimbabwe at age 13. Three years later, in 2014, he founded Shasha Network during his time in the JA Company Program. In 2014, Shasha Network won the JA Company of the Year Competition in Zimbabwe. Today, Shasha Network continues to grow under the leadership of Farai, who is currently in his final year studying business at African Leadership University. “Shasha is on a mission to make education accessible to students across not only Zimbabwe but southern Africa,” Farai said.

In 2015, Farai was awarded the Anzisha Prize, recognizing him as one of Africa’s top-12 entrepreneurs between ages 16 and 22 by the African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation. To date, Shasha Network has provided over 15,000 learners access to digital learning. In 2018, the company was selected for the JA Africa and Facebook Out-of-School Award, which recognizes alumni doing work in their home countries. “My entrepreneurial instincts were born during my days at JA,” Farai said. “I am focused on creating more opportunities for young people, just as JA has made possible for me to realize my goals.”

Farai now aims to improve secondary education attainment for 10 million young people across Africa by 2030. “This I believe will get them closer to their academic and professional goals and will empower them to also add value to their communities either as effective employees or entrepreneurs. My current work with Shasha is a testament to this vision.”

What will you use the prize money for? 

Shasha Network will use the money to scale its business and come closer to the target of reaching 1 million students by 2022