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63: Building the eBay for Knowledge with Clifton Manneh of Konduct Coach Learning

Published February 2, 2021
Run time: 00:23:38
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Clifton Manneh is on a mission to teach 100,000 youth how to code through his company Konduct Coach Learning, an edtech platform where youth and professionals gain employable skills and enhance their professional development. He joins the show to chat about how his mom’s cooking influenced his passion for community-based learning, the lessons he learned as a solo-entrepreneur, and the impact he hopes Konduct Coach Learning will have on the community.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How Clifton’s mom’s community-based restaurant inspired his entrepreneurial journey
  • How the learnings from his first startup impacted Konduct Coach Learning
  • Scrappy ideas for reaching new users using social media
  • How the community can support Clifton’s efforts

This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.

Recorded January 20, 2020 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski

Show Notes:

Konduct Coach Learning

Clifton Manneh on LinkedIn

Episode Transcript:

Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non technical look at all thing technical. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.

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Today we are chatting with Clifton Manneh, founder of Konduct Coach Learning, a skills and curriculum based marketplace for youth and professional learners to enhance their skills and professional development. Clifton is on a mission to teach 100,000 youth in Minnesota to code by creating a community in which everyone can learn new skills that are teachable in order to become the best versions of themselves. So without further ado, here is my interview with Clifton Manneh. Clifton, welcome to the show.

Clifton Manneh 1:24
Thanks for having me.

Tim Bornholdt 1:25
I'm really excited to get to know you a little bit more. I saw what you're doing in the news, and I had to jump right on it right away. So I'm glad you're here. I'd love for you to introduce yourself and kind of explain more about your company and what it is you're actually doing.

Clifton Manneh 1:41
Hi, everyone, my name is Clifton Manneh, founder and CEO at Konduct Coach Learning, which is a skill based marketplace for both youth and professional learners to enhance their skills and professional development. And I am beyond grateful to be on here. So thanks for having me.

Tim Bornholdt 1:58
Absolutely. How did you get the idea for this company?

Clifton Manneh 2:02
This idea of this company has always been something that I've had, that I've been passionate about. Throughout my youth, I watched my mom create a community based organic restaurant. So the story and the founding story of Konduct Coach stems from my mother's upbringing. She was the eldest out of 15 brothers and sisters growing up in a traditional native West African home, and being the eldest girl child, or women to say, she had to stay home cooking, cleaning, and watching after her brothers and sisters while they were sent off to school. So throughout her youth, the only skills, like the skills that she adapted over time and she perfected, was cooking traditional native West African meals. So when we immigrated to the States, specifically, in Staten Island, New York, the only skill she had was cooking traditional native West African food. She then took that skill to start a community based organic restaurant. So what I mean by a community based organic restaurant, she'd rent, like, neighbor's backyards in our communities for the summer. And she'll just prepare different sort of traditional West African food and she'll just sell them. So I seen from that I got my early introduction of supply and demand, my early introduction to entrepreneurship, my early introduction to community organizing, the importance on inclusion, the importance on diversity. So I just got my early introduction to like everything entrepreneurship from this.

So when I moved to the states and Minneapolis, Minnesota, I met up with a couple of guys in college, my co founder, Justin Davis, and I, we co-founded Konduct Coach. And I told him about my story and my concept of why it was important to create a space like this and from my mother's upbringing, I wanted to create a space where anyone and everyone from around the world can adapt everyday skills like the one that my mom had in cooking traditional West African meals to feed her family. I wanted to create something similar to that, where anyone can go and learn skills and become the best version of themselves.

Tim Bornholdt 4:23
That's awesome. How did you get the idea to bridge it into tech?

Clifton Manneh 4:28
We came up with the concept, we started to look around, you know, search the market and good thing is like, you know, coding was something that was major, you know, everybody, right now wants to learn how to code. You know, there's a huge surge, there's a huge demand for coding. So we was like, Okay, so we're gonna start the platform on offering courses, teaching people how to code. So we currently have a free course in HTML. We currently have a free course in JavaScript. We're going to be adding another free course in Google Ads Script coming pretty soon within a week or so. So we just add coding courses on the platform since there was a huge shift in demand. And that's kind of like how we started the platform. And since then, we just kind of been growing and adding to it.

Tim Bornholdt 5:15
Do you have a technical background yourself?

Clifton Manneh 5:17
Oh, no. So I don't have a technical background. Good thing, my co founder, Justin, he went to college, he got the full four year experience. And I think he got like a graphic designing degree. And he realized that he couldn't use that degree. So he went to an actual coding boot camp. And from that boot camp, he learned different skill sets. And he took those skill sets, and since then, I just brought him on the team. And he's been like the first engineer that came on board.

Tim Bornholdt 5:52
That's so cool. So really, having that partnership has been a huge blessing for this company, because you're now able to kind of offer those tech courses and combine your, you know, passion for community organizing and teaching skills that are going to provide value in this marketplace and combine them with someone that has the tech chops to build the curriculum, and you kind of merge the two together. And that's a dynamite combination, I'd say.

Clifton Manneh 6:15
Yep. Yeah.

Tim Bornholdt 6:18
Let me ask you about your first company. So you had a startup originally called National Speaking Society, right? What lessons did you take away from that to merge into what you're working on right now with Konduct?

Clifton Manneh 6:30
So National Speaking Society, I'll give everyone like a brief intro into it. It was basically like a media based platform for giving voice to the voiceless. So what I mean by giving voice to the voiceless is, you know, I feel like there was so much propaganda in the media. And sometimes we forget, like the important stories on people, like in remote villages, whatever, that's Africa, that's India, you know, that's China and stuff. So I was creating this platform to give voices and access to those people who don't have the opportunity, nor have the platform to get to have their voices heard. But some of the lessons that I took from starting NSF to Konduct Coaches is, when I started NSF, I was like a one man show. I was like, Chief Everything Officer. I was doing the marketing. I was doing the interviews. I was doing the editing and all of that stuff. And you know, I kind of had to, like, take a pause on that. And we failed. You know, I realized, like, you know, it can't be a one man show. You can't build a successful company or a minimal company with just one person, you know. I needed someone else to help me. So from NSF to Konduct Coach, I brought in a co founder, then he brought on some more people. And then like right now we're currently about a team of between five to six people on Konduct Coach strong. And that's just kind of how we just been going about KCL.

Tim Bornholdt 8:03
I love it. I know we kind of touched on this earlier where you mentioned you had some free courses around tech. But what are some of the courses in addition to what you're offering right now?

Clifton Manneh 8:12
So right now, we're really, that's one of the biggest thing we're trying to push you is try to find more courses to make our platform pretty diverse with different courses and skill sets for our users. So specifically, right now, it's just a lot of coding courses and stuff. So right now I know, within the near future and stuff where we're looking to add courses in financial literacy. We're looking to add course in like graphic design. We're looking to add courses in like cooking, you know, like, so it's just a few areas or much more large category base of courses that we'll be adding on and we're trying to, like, find ways to bring in more content creators to give us that diverse marketplace of different courses.

Tim Bornholdt 8:59
Are you looking, like for the courses the way that you're delivering them, is it all like web based? Are you hoping at some point like, you know, obviously, pandemic aside when we can actually meet in person again, are you looking to do some more like in person education as well? Or are you really kind of trying to focus on just doing the tech side of things?

Clifton Manneh 9:16
Since like, you know, founding KCL on like our community based approach, we really want to be involved in the community. So whatever that's at, like the university, that's at the high schools, the intermediate schools, or just within the community itself. We want to be really community focused, come after our COVID ,whatever that's doing a live course session where we're in the classrooms and stuff. We really want to take a much more community approach because we want to really build that brand procession, but also build those relationships and stuff. I feel like building the relationship is really, education is about, it's about connection. And it's about bridging those connections and keeping it close and stuff. So I feel like we're really gonna take that approach and stuff once, you know, all of this craziness is done.

Tim Bornholdt 10:11
Yeah, I couldn't agree more like. I went to the U of M for school. And I mean, even like in high school, or going back, it's like some of the best connections I've had were in education, and not even specifically, like your peers. But you really can make a good connection, if you find a good mentor. You know, I've got teachers that I still communicate with pretty frequently. Where just bouncing ideas off of and having just somebody that's, you know, a few steps ahead of you teaching and explaining things that you are struggling with, it's absolutely that's how life is. It's all about those connections.

Clifton Manneh 10:45
It is very impactful and is very meaningful and stuff. So we want to make sure that we're giving our users that experience and stuff because you can't put a price tag on having that experience and stuff.

Tim Bornholdt 10:58
That actually leads perfectly into my next question, since you mentioned price tags. So, given that courses and everything are free, you know, with what you're offering, how are you monetizing? And how are you able to kind of make a living and keep up the fight of pushing things forward this way?

Clifton Manneh 11:16
Oh, you know, we're still pretty early in our development of Konduct Coach. So the concept and branding and idea behind Konduct Coach, we've been operating for about two years, two years strong now. But the website in itself, it's relatively new to the market. So the website that you see, KonductCoachLearning.com, it's only about three and a half to four months old. So we released it back in August of 2020. So the website is pretty new. So like right now we're just trying to figure, we have the business model together, so we're just trying to figure out different monetizing schemes on how we're going to generate our revenue from this. I know we got some pretty advanced courses, like right now, that is for sale at 10.99 on our website. So that's like bootstrap. That's like Ajax. And then it's like a few, I think it's like four total. But those are like pretty advanced courses and stuff. So all the courses on the platform are project based. So there's no certificates really being offered right now. Everything is pretty much project based. It's like you learn this skill. And then there's like a project at the end and stuff to make sure like you really acquire the skills you really paid attention and stuff. But the certificate will be coming in later and stuff. But right now, to really answer the question, we're really trying to figure out the schemes on how we're going to approach our users in trying to monetize it and stuff. So there's still conversations around that.

Tim Bornholdt 12:49
That's good. Anytime you're starting up a business, the monetization is always the hardest part. I mean, even nonprofits, if that's the route you choose to go, it's like, they still make money at the end of the day. So, it's interesting to hear how different people approach that because I would think, you know, most people in education, when you hear people starting up businesses, such as yours, it's always like, at the end of the day, there's got to be some way to make money, but I think there's a way to do it, like ethically and keep things where you're still focused on the mission. Cecause the mission is to obviously educate people and get them to improve skills and you know, grow in their careers. So you want to find a way to do that, where it's not like, Hey, I can teach you, you know, bootstrap, or Ajax or CSS or JavaScript, anything like that, but I'll charge you $10,000. That's not going to work for a lot of people.

Clifton Manneh 13:41
Right.

Tim Bornholdt 13:42
So we're talking again about within a virtual climate like this, you know, given pandemic and all that good stuff, I would imagine that marketing and trying to find people to, you know, actually take the courses would be challenging. So maybe you could touch on that a little bit about how you're getting people to come into the platform and actually interact with what you're offering.

Clifton Manneh 14:05
So we've been taking, you know, we're really taking a much, I don't know how like it's really sometimes hard, but then it's sometimes easy. So it's kind of a balance of both because we don't really have any marketing personnel on the team. Especially like it's really hard trying to find people that have that everyday passion and the drive to come on board and stuff and really help out the marketing and stuff. But how we've been finding our users to come onto our platform is we've been utilizing social media platforms such as Instagram, you know, posting Instagram stories, engaging with friends and family and their friends and their families, etc. We've been utilizing Snapchats creating little short videos of whatever like, Hey, we've got a free course in HTML. You should sign up and stuff. Learn how to build and operate your own website. Things of that nature. We've been really heavy on Facebook, creating little short, catchy videos, active different Facebook groups, whatever, that's coding, that's financial literacy, just are very active in that space, in that community and stuff, and letting people know about who we are and our impact and how we plan to like help those that don't have the necessary skill sets.

Tim Bornholdt 15:27
That's so cool. I wish I was better at using social media. I just pretty much live on LinkedIn. But I think it's really cool that you're able to just, you know, use what you got. It's so exciting to see like a scrappy young company like that. Because it wasn't that long ago that we were in the same shoes of like, how do you find clients? How do you get work? How do you make money? How do you get people to do the things you want them to do? And it's like, you kind of got to just use the tools you got available to you. And it's interesting to hear. Are both you and your business partner kind of spearheading all of that marketing? Or do you have like, what does your team look like right now?

Clifton Manneh 16:05
So I run, like, the development, ugh not the development. I run the business side of the company. So from marketing, you know, figuring out the revenue, strategy, the business, the business strategies, and all of that stuff. And for him, he's like, really technical, and like, that's his life work and stuff, you know, that's his bread and butter. So he runs the development side of the company. His name's Justin Davis. He's pretty, I can't say pretty, he's highly intelligent and stuff. So when it comes to that, he does a great job of making sure like things on the development side are taking care of, whether that's new features, bringing on new UI and UX and stuff, just making sure things on a development side are taking care of. He's pretty well versed and stuff, so he's really great on his side.

Tim Bornholdt 16:54
That's. awesome. My business partner helps out so much as well. It's like you said before, like one of the biggest lessons taken from your old company is you trying to do it all yourself, things aren't going to get done. But having somebody that you can rely on that's going to bring as much passion and effort to the cause that you have, is everything.

Clifton Manneh 17:13
Right.

Tim Bornholdt 17:13
How can the community rally around and help you out at this point? Like, is it really, you know, from a marketing standpoint, you kind of touched on that already? Is it from kind of getting the word out about getting more users on board? Is it, you know, donations?How can people get involved and help you out? Or one other thing too, is like coming up with mentors or courses or teachers, is that a route you're looking for?

Clifton Manneh 17:38
Oh, so basically, you know, with the marketing side of things, we really need people who who are passionate, who loves marketing, and however they can help us get the word out about that. Our biggest focus right now is just really engaging more users to come on board and stuff. That's like our biggest focus areas, you know. I wouldn't really say any other areas, like if you have a passion and you want to donate and stuff, like we'll highly appreciate it. Whatever proceeds it is, it'll just go towards, like marketing, go towards, you know, just trying to figure out different avenues to grow the company and stuff. But the biggest thing is just really helping us get the word out. Just you know, helping us get the word out, help us get as much users as we want. I know we don't really have a target amount of users. But if I had to. I'd say about 100,000, or more, but if we hit a millionaire or so, we'd be happy and stuff. But just really getting more people to know who Konduct Coach is, our mission, and really just getting us out there and stuff. Because we're really, we're really passionate about this. We're not being paid from this and stuff. I know, we have day jobs, and we come to this, but like, our goal is to like really grow this thing and really leave a huge impact and legacy in our community on helping people gain necessary skill sets, and you know, help them become the best version of themselves, gaining employment and stuff. So just really helping us get the word out. I'll just leave it as that.

Tim Bornholdt 19:18
Well, I hope this helped get the word out, because I'll certainly be spreading the word and I think a lot of our users will be really interested in it as well. Just one final question, obviously, where can people go to find out more about this and help you out and do everything they can to spread the word?

Clifton Manneh 19:36
I'll say you can find me on LinkedIn at Clifton Manneh. I'm highly active on LinkedIn, you know, out of all social media platforms, I'll say 100% of my time, although it's not 100% of my time, but that's where I'm highly active at. I'm always in that space in that community, building connections for KCL, building connection and relationships for myself. But outside of that, I'll say you can go on KonductCoachLearning.com, sign up, share with a friend, a family member and get the word out. You can, you know, send us an email on becoming a content creator, whether that offering a course in financial literacy, offering a course in cooking, coding courses and stuff. We'd highly appreciate more content creators even helping us get more users and stuff. But I'll say that's the best way you can reach us or follow us on Instagram at KonductCoachLearning.com or on Facebook, same, at KonductCoachLearning.com.

Tim Bornholdt 20:38
One last question for you. And this is like a dangerous question because we're asking it like at 4:30, like right before dinnertime. And maybe that's because I got food on my mind. But I couldn't let you go without asking you what your favorite dish is that your mom prepared? Because I would imagine that she is a phenomenal cook. And so I just want to hear you know, straight from your mouth, what do you look forward to when your mom's gonna cook you a nice fancy dinner?

Clifton Manneh 21:03
I'll say, I don't know if you've ever tried it, but I hope you can try it one day. But it's two dishes. One is called jollof rice. I don't know if you ever heard of the term and stuff or the food. But jollof rice is like basically it's like a mixture of, it's like really good healthy and it's spicy at the same time. But it's got like chicken, it has shrimp. You can have some broccoli and carrots in it and stuff. It's really healthy for you, it's really good and stuff. So I'll say jollof rice, or cassava leaf is like chopped up grains. And it has everything in it, you know from fish to chicken. And again, it's really, really good. So if you don't know about it, I will tell you like go try it out, like Clifton referred me to go try it out. It's really, really good. And trust me, you'll want more.

Tim Bornholdt 21:55
I already do. Both of those sound amazing. So I got them written down. I'm gonna go tell my wife that's what we're having for dinner tonight. Clifton, thank you so much for joining me today. This was awesome.

Clifton Manneh 22:07
Ah, man. Thank you, man. It's a great honor and a great privilege for having this opportunity to continue to spread the word about Konduct Coach, who we are and our missions and values. And I'm very, very grateful as well as my team. We honestly appreciate you guys for having us and stuff. So thanks so much for the opportunity.

Tim Bornholdt 22:26
It's our pleasure. Thank you for being here.

Thank you to Clifton Manneh for joining me on the podcast today. You can learn more about Clifton and Konduct Coach Learning at KonductCoachLearning.com and that's Konduct with a K.

Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constantvariables.co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the honorable Jordan Daoust.

If you have a minute quick before you leave, we would really love it if you left us a review on the Apple Podcast app. It really doesn't take you much time at all and it helps new people find our show. So just head to constantvariables.co/review and we'll link you right there. This episode was brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group. If you're looking for a technical team who can help you make sense of mobile software development, give us a shout jmg.mn.