Startup Spotlight: Agrow
Startup Spotlight: Agrow
Meet Jamell Sirleaf – Co-Founder of Agrow, a streamlined platform for liberian emigrants to pruchase grocery items for friends and relatives back home!
GH: What is Agrow?
Agrow provides a platform for Liberian emigrants to purchase grocery items for friends and relatives back home. Rather than paying fees or using excess time to send money or other forms of aid from the US to Liberia, customers can purchase items on the Agrow website for their friends or relatives to pick up from the Agrow location in Monrovia.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Agrow get started?
Speaking with my parents about the process of sending money back home to Liberia, and really for all immigrants. We wondered how much easier it would be just to buy things for them instead of just sending ambiguous cash sums each time. We were sitting in the kitchen and unpacking groceries, when we realized that if we could just have prepaid groceries we would make it so much easier for immigrants to help feed their families back home.
GH: How did you build your team?
My partner, Kadeem Clarke, is probably the smartest person I know, so it was a no brainer to pitch him the idea and ask him to start Agrow with me. We’re looking for people who want to make a difference and help people. It is also a plus to be first-generation Americans because we have insight into what this process looks like currently, and how to improve the experience.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
We strive to, at the very least, make food more accessible to people in third-world countries. We want to improve the food industry and provide a better food infrastructure to countries of need. Obviously, we want to begin with the Liberian people and the Liberian market, but feel that if we take the necessary steps and work hard we will be able to help people all over the world.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Well I was pitching for my first startup, RASE, and had one of the worst times in front of a audience I can think of. I stuttered, read off of the screen, didn’t have the right information, and could not answer the simple questions being asked of me by the investor panel. It really motivated me to work smarter and really know what I was getting myself into in order to be more confident in my product.
Founders Kadeem Clarke (top) and Jamell Sirleaf (bottom)
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
We are learning how best to make their experience easier. The most important thing we realized is that no one wants to go through a complex experience, so making it simple and easy has been our primary goal.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
The Boston University entrepreneur community is thriving and it’s a really good place to be in right now. We have been provided with seminars, mentors, pitch competitions, and even funding by BU and we are extremely grateful. We also are able to work in an awesome building surrounded by like minded individuals which really motivates us to continue our work. The best part of the Boston ecosystem is that everyone is eager to work together.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
I would probably say that it is still relatively small compared to bigger markets like New York and San Francisco, so there is a limit to how many people and events you can connect with.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to just do. Don’t over think about planning or being right or being successful right away, just work on your project and even if it’s not where you want to be you’ll be somewhere.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Probably being a part of the Boston University Summer Accelerator. We were awarded funding, mentors, and workshops that really helped me grow.
GH: What does the future hold for Agrow?
We are looking forward to continuing to grow (no pun intended, but duly noted) and working with the various entities in the food industry so we can better serve our communities.
Learn more about Agrow!