Entrepreneur Pushes For More Inclusive Education In Developing Countries – Forbes
Nepal has found educational partners from across the globe.
In many first-world countries, education is a fundamental societal offering. Even article 26 of the United Nations declares it a universal human right. Yet, while it’s easy to take for granted just how vital education is when it is so easily available, in nations like Nepal and other developing countries, education is often a privilege, mostly accessible to the middle and upper classes.
Without proper primary education, millions of people in these countries are cut off from a world that is developing at a frenetic pace, from the opportunities the internet provides to innovations and creative breakthroughs. To borrow a movie analogy, they would forever remain in the tail of the Snowpiercer.
To ensure more participation from disadvantaged nations in the brave new world, Iman Gadzhi started building schools in Nepal. To date, Gadzhi has personally financed the buildout of five schools in Nepal in a commitment that he describes as the most fulfilling he has ever made, with no intention to stop.
Gadzhi’s story is of note not just because of the heights he has reached in his career but also because he has made every significant move in the public eye. He chronicled his efforts over the previous seven years, sharing his story with over 500,000 YouTube subscribers.
I sat down with 22-year-old Gadzhi to discuss his journey that began at the ripe age of 15.
Rod Berger: Looking at everything you have achieved at such a young age, I’d like to know where it all started for you and what’s behind your entrepreneurial spirit.
Iman Gadzhi: Great question; my journey has been a multi-faceted ride. I was born with a drive to keep pushing for success and toward the next goal. While that drive has been an asset in my entrepreneurial pursuits, some may argue that it also deprives me of the ability to take a break, relax and enjoy the wins along the way.
I grew up in London, and my biological dad was an alcoholic and abusive father, so I had it rough growing up. My stepdad also cut us off at an early age, and all I had left was my mum, which was difficult, but she is amazing.
I knew from a young age that I had to start making money because my greatest motivation at the time was to take care of my mother and help her retire. It spurred me on, but I eventually had to drop out of school at age 17 to pursue my business full time and support her.
Berger: That’s a big responsibility at an early age. I can imagine building five schools in Nepal is not a small financial feat. Can you share a little about your businesses and how they became profitable, allowing you to undertake the projects in Nepal?
Iman Gadzhi began his entrepreneurial pursuits at age 15, focusing his achievements on social impact … [+]
Gadzhi: I started flipping Instagram accounts at age 14. I would buy accounts that weren’t worth much, help them grow and then sell them. Later I dabbled in fitness coaching, and before you knew it, I was selling three-month personal training services to parents of my friends and people I networked within the gyms.
These two businesses made me about $20,000 in profit, but I branched out and started shooting photos and videos for people. That experience propelled me to open my own online marketing agency. IAG Media grew significantly over the last six years and has given me multiple seven and eight-figure years of profit.
I made some investment moves as well. For instance, In 2020, I invested $1 million in crypto and another million in wristwatches which is a surprisingly profitable asset class if you know what to look for. There were a few other small ventures, but that’s a quick summary of how I started. I’ve made about $25 million to date, and investing in schools has become one of my strongest passions.
Berger: How did your entrepreneurial journey lead to such a strong passion for education and planting schools in disadvantaged areas? Many wouldn’t expect someone who dropped out at the age of 17 to create schools halfway around the world.
Gadzhi: I have always been an educator at heart. It’s incredible the things that people can achieve with the right information. Even though I dropped out at 17 years old, I have remained an avid learner and voracious reader. I enjoy imparting knowledge, which grew my following on social media. I am a strong believer in self-education, but what about the people who don’t even have a seat at the table?
Sometime in 2019, I decided to take IAG media further, so I started developing and selling courses to those who wanted to start and scale their online agencies, much like I had done. I soon realized that people were using courses as fast-money gimmicks that faded after a year.
So, I decided to build a full-scale education company, which was how Grow Your Agency (GYA) was born. It’s been incredibly profitable and impactful over the last three-plus years. In 2020, we took it a step further and built out the GYA EdTech learning platform. It cost us a lot of money in development costs, but it was worth it.
The schools in Nepal are an extension of this educational initiative, our philanthropic arm. I’ve realized the power of information and what it has done for me, and it sickens me to see that some people will never partake in all the wonders of the evolving world and the internet because they lack the most basic education. This endeavor is giving them a fighting chance.
Iman Gadzhi and his collaboration with Pahar Trust Nepal continue to bring education to local … [+]
Berger: Your efforts are encouraging, but I imagine running all these businesses while building schools in Nepal is not easy. How do you manage to combine all of these efforts?
Gadzhi: So, we don’t physically need to be in Nepal to build the schools. We collaborate with our charity partner in Nepal, Pahar Trust Nepal. I provide the funds and they build it. Typically, I visit the schools and interact with teachers and students as often as time allows. I’m actually taking a few team members to see the schools later this year.
Berger: Looking back on your journey, I presume your mother is well taken care of. What spurs, Iman Gadzhi, now? What’s next for you as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist?
Gadzhi: [Laughs] Well, I made sure my mum retired when I was just 19 years old, so she is pretty much sorted, but as I said earlier, I am one of those people that can’t just sit still.
I recently partnered with the husband of one of my agency clients to launch a software company, which is my primary focus now. It’s called AgenciFlow, a SaaS platform explicitly built for online agencies. I recently closed my previous agency, by the way, to have some mental bandwidth for this next phase.
We launched AgenciFlow in February of 2022, which was evaluated at $10 million within six months. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s equally fulfilling. I also started a non-fungible token (NFT) company called Gents Croquet Club, which has been a high-performing NFT project even in a bear market.
I definitely have plans to keep building schools. My hope is that someday, some of the kids in these schools will walk up to me and be everything I dreamed of when I started this journey. That would be the most fulfilling outcome of my efforts.
Iman Gadzhi’s passion for education is not just admirable; it’s also inspiring. According to UNICEF, over 770,000 children from five to 12 years old are out of school in Nepal. Gadzhi’s approach to giving back is measurable, with over 2000 children in Nepal now being able to wake up and go to school.
Perhaps the West could learn a thing or two from those making significant inroads in marginalized communities. As failing infrastructures in schools continue to grow in the U.S., more attention appears necessary, even inside developing countries.
The world is changing rapidly and more children from all over the globe need a chance to position themselves at the table of tomorrow’s decisions. Efforts like Gadzhi’s are giving them a fighting chance.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.