Jasmine Amoako-Agyei is a social entrepreneur and is launching her new startup, Countdown. She just completed her 3rd year at Arizona State University, pursuing a degree in Marketing with double minors in Sustainability and Technological Entrepreneurship & Management.
She’s a very active and engaged individual, participating and leading in a UN Millennium Fellowship, Luminosity Lab, and Project C.U.R.E. among others. She’s currently leading a team of engineers at ASU to help tackle plastic pollution in Ghana.
She joined our team at Aeeiee as a Marketing Intern, and prior to her leaving, received a $1500 scholarship to launch her startup. In this interview, we are going to get to know her and all about her company.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Your background, interests, passion.
I am a social entrepreneur, a researcher, children’s book author, an ASU Tillman Scholar, Creative, and student at Arizona State University in Barrett, the Honors College. I am very passionate about the intersection between human rights, the environment, and sustainable development—with a specific focus on marginalized communities who are disproportionately affected by Climate Change. My family is from Ghana, West Africa, yet I grew up in the United States. Having grown up with a deep cultural influence in my home and community, I always had a very strong sense of who I was and what my values were. My interests are quite broad; art, music, travel, fashion, the environment/science, and culture. I love public speaking, performing, and curating cultural experiences like fashion shows and art displays.
What would you say drives or motivates you?(e.g. a technical challenge, an overall problem, helping the world, etc.)
That’s a tough question because I would say that there is a lot that drives me. The concept of sustainability, which is the act of preserving our resources and environment without compromising the ability of future generations to do so, underlies everything I do. I don’t look at this concept solely from a scientific lens, but also from a social one. How can we preserve aspects of our cultures and history for future generations? What educational methods are worth preserving and what methods need to adapt? Which jobs will withstand automation and contribute to a “greener future”? I think it goes without saying that we have reached a very critical chapter in our history as a species. We need to be intentional about how we act at this moment.
What is your favorite quote? if And if you could meet any historical figure, alive or deceased, who would it be?
It’s quite long, but my favorite quote is:“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not. I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – Eric RothAnd if I could meet any historical figure, I would definitely choose James Baldwin. I have loved reading his essays and plays. He is someone I would love to engage in conversation with and learn from.
Jasmine talks about her internship experience at Aeeiee
Tell us about your internship experience at Aeeiee? What were your favorite moments at Aeeiee? Are there any fun projects you worked on that you’d like to share?
This summer, I had the very fortunate opportunity to be the first Marketing intern at Aeeiee. I had the opportunity to work (remotely) with an international team in a field I have always wanted to learn more about–tech. My work primarily focused on training in HTML, CSS, Responsive Web Design, App Store Ranking(ASO), Search Engine Optimization(SEO), and Adobe Suite.I also had the chance to work with the UX team on app development for the Dress Measurement app. I learned so much about app development, performance, user experience, customer retention, delegation, and communication.
While I loved working on the Dress Measurement app with the UX team, my favorite project would have to be the Corporate Social Responsibility campaign proposal that I put together and presented to the board. Keeping Aeeiee’s mission in mind, I picked an organization that I felt would be a valuable partner for impact. I put together a presentation along with a short campaign advertisement that reinforced the message I was trying to convey. Presenting my work was a moment that I am incredibly proud of. My favorite moments at Aeeiee would definitely have to be our Weekly Gaming Sessions and our Sprint Retropectives. Since the company is remote, I really value the times when I do get to interact with the other team members, learn about everyone’s backgrounds, and enjoy lighthearted conversations.
During your internship at Aeeiee, what are the valuable things you learned? It could be in regards to culture, ethics, leadership, and management of the company. Were there things you learned during your internship that you think you might apply to your own company?
During my internship, I learned about the importance of communication, specifically cross-cultural communication. I also learned about the importance of time management, organization, leadership, taking initiative, being teachable, and knowing my own limits. When it came to communication, I quickly learned that in order to successfully work remotely with an international team, I would have to communicate often. I could not afford to assume that everyone will be able to read in between the lines of my speech or that they will know what I am thinking. If you want to be efficient, if you need help, if you are unsure of something, you need to communicate.
Since I was working at Aeeiee and with another company at the same time, my time management skills needed to improve significantly. I underestimated how demanding balancing doing both works would be, but now I can say that it was discipline and clear communication that ultimately helped me to achieve that balance.Leadership and taking initiative became huge for me when I was working with the UX team. I would deliberately go out of my way to research what we could be doing better, especially with the Dress Measurement App. Being teachable is a value that I intentionally entered into this internship with. I knew that I had a lot to learn when I started at Aeeiee, and I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to do so. Having the CEO, David Ovienmhada as a mentor prior to my internship was a great help because I’d learned a lot from him. I will apply all of these skills to Countdown because they are applicable to life in general. I think in order to perform our best in a team and effectively lead that team, we need these skills.
We understand Aeeiee helped with a $1500 scholarship to launch countdown, how do you feel about that?
Simply put, I am thrilled, honored, and so grateful. It’s an incredible feeling anytime you realize your dream is so much closer to becoming a reality and that there are people who believe in your dream as well. I am so excited to use this scholarship toward developing more product solutions and growing my startup. My journey thus far with Countdown has been anything but easy. Yet it has already been so rewarding. I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for us.
Jasmine talks about her startup, Countdown
Tell us a bit about Countdown. What is countdown about? What problems are you trying to solve and what do you plan to achieve with it?
The goal of Countdown is to provide Ghanaians–and eventually people all over the world–with an opportunity to learn sustainable practices, receive a technology-focused education, and increased employment opportunities. This initiative also has the power to disrupt the manufacturing sector by creating eco-friendly, durable, and culturally inspired consumer products that can also be recycled again at any time. Through this, we hope to improve environmental health, eradicate pollution-related non-communicable diseases, and empower communities so that they may thrive.
Why are you building this company? What inspired you to create Countdown? Is there an epiphany or an aha moment you’d like to share?
In 2019, I learned about a fellowship opportunity to advance the United Nations 17Sustainable Development Goals called the Millennium Fellowship. A few friends of mine were Millennium Fellows and I was so inspired to become one myself. I knew, however, that you needed a focus area of impact in order to apply. I have spent multiple years learning about and keeping up with various initiatives that advance the 17 SDGs, so it was very challenging to pick one to focus on. Ultimately I learned that in order to make a difference you need to start somewhere, and it’s okay to start small. I wanted to do something that addressed Environmental Health, education, employment, and incorporated creativity as well.
As I reflected on my time in Ghana, I recalled a distinct lack of ineffective waste management methods, facilities, and resources. After further research, I discovered that this lack of resources combined with these harmful waste management methods actually results in increased air pollution, poor sanitation, and increased instances of pollution-related illnesses and deaths.Furthermore, I wanted to find a way to address the high unemployment in the country. I see green jobs as a significant factor for a more sustainable future. Thus, I chose to focus on Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, and ‘Countdown’ was born. I am a firm believer in interdisciplinary collaboration and have since created partnerships and student teams at ASU for Countdown through The Luminosity Lab, Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Walton Sustainability Solutions, and Precious Plastic ASU.
Why the name ‘Countdown’? Can you tell us a bit about what inspired the name? Is there an inspiration behind the name of your company?
The full name of my startup is actually Countdown: Circular Economy Solutions, but I use ‘Countdown’ for short. Essentially, our goal is to countdown to zero waste–and we are using innovative product design to do so. We intend to create a means of transition from the traditional “take, make, use, waste” model of the global linear economy to the most sustainable and cost-effective “make, use, reuse, remake, recycle” model of the circular economy. We are starting with plastic waste, but I intend to later venture into other forms of waste as well.
Jasmine’s advice to young entrepreneurs
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
I would encourage them to be courageous. A valuable lesson I learned about successful entrepreneurs came from the book ‘The Originals’ by Adam Grant. Grant discusses the importance of taking calculated risks. When it comes to being courageous, I think it’s important to trust yourself and lean into what you really love but to also make sure that you are solving a problem and actually addressing a need at the same time. You need to be creative, but you do not need to–nor should you–reinvent the wheel.I also strongly advise not to be afraid to ‘fail’. If it doesn’t work out the first time, that’s okay. It rarely will. But use that experience as a guide and a lesson. Ask yourself, what can I do better next time? What worked? What didn’t work? It’s easy to not take that leap of faith because we don’t want to look like a failure in front of our own circles. To that point, I say this, you have no idea how many people you are inspired by simply trying. Tyler Perry said it best when he said, “there are people whose lives are tied into your dream. Own your stuff, own your business, own your way.”
In conclusion, is there anything that we haven’t asked that you would like to say?
I hope that by sharing a bit about my own story, I am able to inspire a lot of young African girls like myself. Representation is so important, and I know how daunting it can be to venture into spaces where you don’t see anyone who looks like you. Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi said it best, “We should be teaching young girls to take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.” We all have something incredibly valuable to contribute, and I intend to create a world that celebrates the contributions of black women and girls.
Saying Goodbye to Jasmine for now
According to Jasmine, “in order to make a difference you need to start somewhere, and it’s okay to start small.” It is okay to start small and we are so proud of Jasmine for taking this courageous step in launching her company. We hope this interview and her story will inspire you to launch out and pursue what is dear to your heart.
If you are interested in seeing what Jasmine is up to and know more about Countdown, you can visit the Website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram. It was a delight having Jasmine as our intern and we look forward to seeing what she will achieve with Countdown. For us at Aeeiee, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later!