An Independent Consultant Driving Development
Instead of Waiting for a Good Job, Make Your Own
Mwenda’s mother did not think he was serious when he first said he was going to cease working in the U.S. to move to West Africa. Soon after, he was alone in his homeland of Liberia, just three years after graduating college. Then, after two years of working, he took another huge leap by deciding to go solo as a consultant.
Something Was Missing in D.C.
After a summer internship in 2008, Mwenda secured a full-time job offer going into his senior year. After earning his degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Corporate Finance from Emory & Henry college, he worked for Dell EMC as a financial analyst in their Boston, Massachusetts headquarters from 2009-2010. He then moved on to work for Computer Sciences Corporation in their Washington, D.C. headquarters from 2011-2012. The career was promising and he was developing his skills steadily, but something about the work was unsatisfying. Providing financial analysis and support for corporate giants was a reliable and well-compensated line of work, but Mwenda questioned the tangible impact he was having on the world around him.
Bonner had deepened Mwenda’s leadership skills, raised his social consciousness, and gotten him in the habit of giving back. He wanted to find something meaningful and change-making that would utilize his skills. With this goal in mind, he moved back to his homeland of Monrovia, Liberia, in 2012.
Growing into Development Work
Mwenda first found work in Liberia at a renewable energy startup, where he worked for a year. He then found employment with the business development firm Adam Smith International. But after another year there, he started to consider going out on his own. Mwenda began his personal consulting practice in 2014, focusing on agribusiness. He had the experience necessary for private practice but few sources of support or assurances. He researched what he could and dove head-first into the unknown. As he explains, ”when you are forced into those positions, you usually end up swimming.”
An entrepreneur must be able to think on their feet and adapt. This is especially true when the entrepreneur is a contract consultant focused in the agribusiness field of West Africa. Mwenda had to be flexible and ready to jump at opportunities since day one. It took him four months to find his first client, an agribusiness development program that wanted Mwenda to assess value chains. The two sat together in a café in Monrovia as Mwenda gave his pitch. He did not think the potential client was going to respond positively. However, at the end of the meeting, the client decided to contract him. “So I told him I just had to get to my laptop at home, and I would send the paperwork over. And then I went home and created all of the paperwork.” He chuckled as he retold the story, reflecting, perhaps, on the trailblazing he kept behind the scenes as he delivered his first professional contracts.
The Habit of Giving Back
Mwenda now works with development firms, non-governmental organizations, local government officials, and directly with local farmers through his consulting practice. His expertise helps farmers and businesses grow and develop in the economy of Liberia. He is always solving new problems and traveling to consult in different environments. Each contract has distinct purpose. Along the way to making his own career, Mwenda was offered established jobs—including a position as chief financial officer of a mining company in Monrovia. He had to turn down good opportunities to build something great. His rewarding career is the prize for belief and dedication.
A year after Mwenda moved to Liberia, his mother moved back to be in her native country as well. There, she recruited her son’s help to start an after-school program called Joy Givers International (JGI). In addition to his consulting work, Mwenda lives out the values of Bonner by working with his mother to bring educational resources and services to children in West Africa and Haiti. The program still operates and is expanding since its founding in 2012. Looking back, Mwenda wishes he had saved the materials he used when he was volunteering at an after-school program through Bonner. “They would have been really helpful,” he laughs. Fortunately, he knows a thing or two about starting from scratch. Mwenda has refused to wait for connections to fall into his lap. Instead, he makes opportunities that fit his values.
To learn more about Mwenda, check out:
- Lee Kuan Yew’s memoir, From Third World to First: The Singapore Story
- Or his favorite quote by Lee Kuan Yew, “A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honorable place in history.”
- The Joy Givers International page: https://joygiversinternational.org/
Written by Taylor Clarke, Bonner Leader at Stetson University ‘19
Read Mwenda's job profile here