Not many people can say they have a thinking spot — a personal haven to which they can escape. For Jephthah Acheampong, his spot is the Whitney. Acheampong wears his heart on his sleeve and holds the weight of the world on his shoulders, determined to do whatever he can to help it.
In 2014, with a goal to decrease world poverty, a passion for the spoken word and an entrepreneurial spirit, Acheampong founded Anansi Global, a humanitarian fashion company that uses its products and original mentorship curriculum to inspire and empower youth across the globe. Throughout his life, it was the little seeds of creativity and wisdom which formed the foundation for both the man Acheampong is today and the company he now leads.
Acheampong scales Anansi Global through collaborating and cultivating relationships with friends at NYU and around the world. Here he also utilizes his passions for fashion, economic development, business management and the spoken word. The spoken word, a recent passion discovered upon arrival at NYU, is what inspired the Anansi Global bracelets. After realizing the impact his words had on people, he sees the bracelets as a platform to expand the capacity of his spoken word into written world. Every bracelet has a phrase from the myriad of poems he has written.
“In the future I see Anansi touching millions of youth,” Acheampong said. “That’s only going to come by scaling with technology, which is why we’re focusing on technology as our new platform. We want to decrease the unemployment rate in sub-Saharan African countries and it starts with the youth cultivating them with the skill set needed to reach their potential.”
Anansi Empowerment Initiative cultivates skill sets. The initiative’s curriculum is mainly focused on building entrepreneurial skills and exposure, providing opportunities to children that they may not otherwise have, such as work in the Parliament of Ghana. The initiative also incorporates sports in the hopes of motivating the youth to avoid risky behavior and focus their efforts on succeeding. AEI members play soccer with the boys and ampe — a traditional Ghanaian children’s game similar to rock, paper, scissors — with the girls to coincide with the core principle of education that they constantly preach.
“The youth we worked with were occupied with strengthening and unifying their relationship and building their community through positively influenced collaboration,” Acheampong said. “Education is an extremely important force to cultivate growth in anyone. And when I say education it’s past the classroom, it’s outside the classroom: learning from a stranger, learning from a friend.”
When he was just 10 years old, Acheampong lost his father. At such a vulnerable age, he became swayed by the privatized community in Ghana where he grew up. He found himself surrounded by peers who had neither drive nor aspirations. He needed a change in surroundings. He needed to be intellectually stimulated. It took his uncle, Ekow Aikins Jr., walking into his life for that to happen.
“He showed me that I have potential, which is what inspired Anansi,” Acheampong said. “I wanted to be that father figure for the youth who don’t have that uncle. There are one million orphans in Ghana and they don’t have that parental figure to tell them how to act.”
Aikins was a mentor both in life and in the classroom. Acheampong had already developed a sense of right versus wrong, but he credits his uncle for furthering his understanding and significantly contributing to his growth as a person.
After being raised in an environment that cultivated his keen interest in improving the lives of others, Acheampong had no trouble deciding on a university — NYU was the perfect place to empower his mission to celebrate diversity. Acheampong credits the diversity of the students and professors as a major influence on his perspective and how he thinks.
Finding balance for any student is hard, between classes, extracurriculars, internships and work. And when you are the CEO of your own company at the age of 21, it is especially hard.
“Surrounding myself with people who are doing very similar things helps,” Acheampong said. “When you’re around people that are like you, you realize you’re not crazy and you realize what you’re doing is okay.”
Acheampong is also the Event Director for the African Student Union and a member of Gentlemen of Quality. Besides Anansi Global, he contributes ideas to three other startups, doing everything from community marketing and strategy to business development.
“I believe the great thing about attending NYU is the wide range of networks students can tap into,” Acheampong said. “I successfully leverage my network by sharing opportunities I am involved in with them.”
Acheampong says what he’s been through has put him in a position to make real change in the world. There’s no telling what it might take to realize that dream of ending poverty and giving everyone the same opportunities he’s had. But until then, Jeph Acheampong is content with his spot at the Whitney, introspectively reflecting on how he can use his intrinsic generosity and drive for the greatest good.
Read about more of this year’s Up-and-Comers here.