By Jewelle Saunders
“Not everyone has unwrapped theirs yet, but everyone has a gift to give to the world,” says Alpha Sennon.
2016 YLAI Fellow Alpha Sennon is a well-recognized global “farmerpreneur,” motivational speaker, agri-youth advocate. He is also the founder of WHYFARM (We Help You-th Farm), an award-winning nonprofit organization that pioneers agricultural educational entertainment (AgriEduTainment), and creator of AGRIman, the world’s first superhero for food and nutrition security.
Located in Trinidad and Tobago, Alpha is on a mission with WHYFARM and AGRIman to promote the importance of sustainable agriculture among youth and children to counter the challenges relating to food security in communities around the world.
For Alpha, farming was not always the plan. It took time before he discovered his gift and his ultimate “why,” and now he wants to motivate others to find theirs.
Connecting with your purpose
“Coming from a farming family, as a child, I never connected with farming,” says Alpha. “It just felt like chores. I was missing the connection to a great purpose. What was the reason? Why?” It wasn’t until after he tried different subject areas at university and could not connect with any of them that he came back to agribusiness; this helped Alpha connect to his heritage and his greater reason “why.”
“Studying agribusiness was mind-blowing. It allowed me to recognize and appreciate why farming was so important for my family and my community, and I could finally see the people behind the production, and I could see the level of waste, as well as the immense possibilities,” he says.
For Alpha, finding his “why,” uncovering his purpose, and motivating others to find theirs is most important. “Everyone is motivated by something different, and they just need to become aware,” he says. One such motivational moment happened during a lecture Alpha once taught, where a young man approached him, lamenting that many of his family members were diabetic and had nerve damage in their feet that caused them to lose one or both legs. He asked Alpha what plants and crops he could grow to help provide natural remedies to cure and prevent diabetes and ensure that no other members of his family would lose their legs.
“After this talk and this connection, maybe he could go on to become a farmer. He could also become a doctor or a vet or anything else, but he now has that connection in his mind that agriculture is a form of medicine that will last forever, and he has that appreciation and knowledge now that helped him connect his ‘why’ and his motivation,” says Alpha.
Agriculture and branding made cool
Through WHYFARM, Alpha has created AGRIman, the world’s first superhero for food and nutrition security, along with his newest character, PhotosyntheSista, to promote agriculture to youth globally and to inspire them to think, “Maybe if I start farming, that can be me?” By creating that awareness and sensitization through his brand and comics (and with plans for an animated series and movies one day), Alpha is able to inspire others by showing a path and allowing them to find their own reasons for why agriculture is important to them.
Through “AgriEduTainment” and “AgriCoolture,” Alpha has created unique ways to brand his messaging to new youth audiences to change the visibility of food security, even well beyond Trinidad and Tobago.
Education is a must for Alpha, and he is always looking for new and innovative ways to share his content to connect to different audiences. He knows that in this world of digital transformation, you need to brand your materials in a certain way — natural, cultural, artistic, cool — and you need to introduce them in unique ways, such as an online school, comics, lectures, worksheets, workshops or exercises.
Even in physical marketing — producing AGRIman-branded clothing, bookbags, and toys, with messages such as “Plant One Tree for Free!” — he has found a way to introduce to young people the idea that growing their own food is the new normal, and that this is something they could want more training in after seeing these messages.
Build your own unique brand
“The word ‘authentic’ is thrown around a lot, but in the truest sense, it is the most important thing you can be as a young entrepreneur,” says Alpha. “Finding the ‘I’ in your idea, ‘U’ in your uniqueness, and ultimately your personal ‘why’ allows you to be yourself and build a brand out of yourself.” Alpha advises that you cannot try to be someone else, because then “you are building someone else’s brand.”
“There is no way you can be better than your competitor” unless you are being yourself and building your brand, he says.
Connecting and communicating your gift becomes most important. Here’s Alpha’s key advice:
- Find your “why” and your gift.
- Discover your community.
- Identify your audience.
- Walk in your own shoes, no one else’s.
- Fulfill your dream day to day.
Thanks, Alpha for all of your work in making agriculture cool and for advising others on how to be themselves and create their unique brand! Stay up to date with #YLAIBrandBetter for more information and resources on creating your unique brand.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.