Q&A with GSEA ‘Together We Grow’ Award Winner, Arnold Shoko
The EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) is the premier global competition for students who own and operate a business. Nominees compete against their peers from around the world in a series of local and national competitions in hopes to qualify for the GSEA Global Finals. GSEA delivers on its vision to empower student entrepreneurs to become the world’s most influential change makers by supporting student entrepreneurs who require much-needed mentorship, recognition and connections to take their businesses to the next level of success.
Arnold Shoko of Tanzania is the CEO and co-founder of Samaki Farms, a company that transforms food waste into protein feeds. In the 2022 GSEA Global Finals, Arnold Shoko won the Together We Grow Award for his collaborative spirit. We asked Arnold about his GSEA experience. Here’s what he shared:
Tell us about your company, Samaki Farms.
At Samaki Farms, we produce alternative protein feed ingredients using black soldier fly larvae. We are an Insect-Tech startup. We offer larvae as an alternative protein feed ingredient, and we also offer consultation services to fish farmers around the country. We transform organic food waste into richly nutrient insect protein feed for fish. We make sustainable feed for a cleaner world.
I started my business following my long-term commitment and passion for fisheries and agriculture—two things that define me. My team and I identified a big opportunity in fish farming. We realized fish farmers needed good options to lower production costs. That sparked the idea to produce alternative protein feed for fish farmers and fish feed manufacturers. I thought, “We have a lot of food waste; how can I use this waste in growing feed?”
Now I work with a team of six people on a mission to build scalable and innovative solutions for providing alternative protein ingredients for fish feeds in Tanzania. I’m fulfilling my childhood dream!
How did you discover the GSEA competition?
I saw an ad for GSEA on Instagram. I thought, “What is this? Is this for me?” Then I found EO Tanzania and learned that they were hosting a GSEA competition for the whole country. That’s where I met my friend David Denis—the 2021 GSEA global runner-up. He encouraged me to apply. I knew I had to go for it.
Are you a student entrepreneur who is ready to take your business to the next level? The 2022/23 GSEA competition season is open. Apply today!
Did EO members help you hone your GSEA presentation?
Yes, I felt so lucky! I found four amazing mentors from EO Tanzania: Baraka Mtunga, Miranda Naiman, Emir Karamagi, and Sabrina Othman. They helped me improve my presentation. I would send the presentation for their feedback, and they asked about a lot of details. So I would work on it again and repeat the process.
The GSEA competition process helped me realize that what I’m bringing to the world isn’t just a presentation—it’s a company.
My mentors helped me realize the potential of what I’m doing. As a student, I didn’t dream that big. The time I spent meeting them was so valuable. My mentors encouraged me and advised me on how to reach out to other companies in the industry.
We are now marketing, branding, and using proper Samaki Farms packaging for our feeds. We are no longer a mediocre business— we are now a proper business with huge potential!
You are the 2022 GSEA Together We Grow winner. How did you earn that award?
I was honored to receive the award, which goes to a student who fosters community and demonstrates concern for others while fully engaging in and contributing to the GSEA programme.
I have always had a strong sense of bringing people together and involving others. There were over 60 student competitors in the GSEA Global Finals. As student entrepreneurs, we all face similar struggles in our individual companies. We had a sense of belonging together and a feeling that no matter who won, our common bond would remain after the competition. I made many new friends from other countries, and even now, after the competition is over, we keep on communicating.
I received a US$4,000 grant as the Together We Grow winner. My EO mentors advised me to use 90 percent of it to increase production and put 10 percent toward operations. While the amount of money may seem small to some people, to us, it is huge. Because of that money, other investors are more willing to invest in our company. It is a huge advantage that the GSEA award has provided to us.
How has your business changed since the GSEA competition?
We have doubled production and now have two proper breeding houses. We are also running operations quite differently. This expansion would not be possible without the funds.
Through GSEA, I connected with people in different parts of the world who encouraged me to explore additional food wastes such as those from fast food, grab-and-bites, and vegetable markets. Now we’re expanding with a plan to build capacity; we see our target production as 1,000 tons. I got all of that motivation from GSEA. It’s quite a new mindset for me.
What were your takeaways from GSEA Global Finals?
My most significant takeaway from GSEA is that I need to think big. And then, even bigger!
I had never entered any other competition before GSEA. It gave me so much motivation. I didn’t even know I could do all of this expansion and attract investors. My business will be a big thing in the future because of GSEA and everything I learned from the programme.
My EO mentors still encourage and advise me. My background is as a scientist, not a business person. I recently met with some potential investors. My EO mentors graciously advised me how to behave, how to interact, and afterward, how to proceed.
GSEA is not about the prize money (although that is significant!). It’s about growth and learning. The EO mentors I connected with really want and wish for me to grow; they are with me throughout the process.
What do you say to student entrepreneurs who may consider entering the GSEA competition?
I’ve already spoken about GSEA to many people, including a group of students who run startups in Dar es Salaam. I told them to apply. I am a full-time GSEA alumni and ambassador–encouraging others to experience what I’ve experienced.
Participating in GSEA is a great way to understand business, learn how to run a company, and build communications skills. All of these things are far more important than the funds alone. Everything that our company has grown into is a result of GSEA—I feel so lucky that I found it!
You can view the 2022 GSEA Global Finalists’ journeys by subscribing to the GSEA YouTube channel and watching the #STARTITUP miniseries, which details the 2022 competitors’ journeys.
If you are a student entrepreneur who is ready to take your business to the next level, the 2022/23 GSEA competition season is open. Apply today!
For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog.