Tony Marfo: Entrepreneur, dreamer, and budding guitarist
Tony Marfo is an entrepreneur that has the drive and determination to take his startup, Scratch Code Academy, and turn it into a global company. As of today, he is a long way down the road and moving toward the finishing line, fast.
After just an hour in his auspicious company you soon come to realize that Tony Marfo has the Midas touch where everything that he touches turns to gold. As a co-founder of Scratch Code Academy, a training IT platform where people can learn how to code, he is setting his sights on taking the company to the next level. He has eyes on the prize of turning it into first a local, and then a global force to be reckoned with.
But this is not his first rodeo. Although Scratch Code Academy is pretty much still in its infancy having been around for only a year now, Tony worked with other startups as a Software Engineer. If you have not yet worked out the pattern, he is an entrepreneur par excellence and an expert in the software arena.
Blood, sweat, and a large helping of know-how
Although the companies that Tony has worked with, or the one he runs right now, are successful in their own right, Tony is quick to point out that the journey till now has not always been plain sailing.
He pauses for reflection before saying, “There can be no doubt that startups come with their own unique challenges, but so far so good for Scratch Code Academy. We are currently growing hand over fist and have had a recent spike of learners being signed up. To put that into perspective, when we started last year we had about seven students. Today we have expanded that learner base to around 200.”
Tony attributes this spike in enrollments to the partnership they’ve recently undertaken with the Ghanaian government. As part of their national training initiative, he tells us that Scratch Code Academy has been brought on as a consultant to help the government train some students within the Ghana Education Service. And because the learning is both online and offline, it is opening up the courses to a wider range of school leavers who want to join and improve their software skillsets or create a future career in software coding and engineering.
Of the government backed initiative to breed tomorrow’s software engineering superstars in Ghana Tony says, “Yeah so basically the program, that now forms part of the school curriculum, is aimed at kids between the ages of six and 15, so we devised a special curriculum to accommodate the basic skill sets that they currently have.
Using his Nexford skills to build his business
Tony has only been on the Nexford MBA program since the latter stages of 2022, but he tells us that the skills that he is procuring from the university are having a marked impact on the growing success of his company. But he is under no illusion that there is a lot of hard work ahead.
When he first enrolled he says that he was a bit at sea as to how he was going to make it all work out, especially as his time was being monopolized running a startup. But with the advice of his Nexford Success Advisor, and the self-paced way of learning, his concerns were soon laid to rest.
Of his days finding his feet at Nexford Tony says, “Initially, when I started, I was not sure how I was going to do my learning and work it around my busy work schedule. I was scratching my head over how I was really going to figure it all out and get it all done. But, after I took the first few courses, it all seemed to flow and I found it easier to access resources.”
Continuing on that train of thought, Tony went on to say that besides the MBA program and its amazing curriculum, he is really loving the value adds of LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft 365 that come with being a Nexford learner. Of LinkedIn Learning he says that it is proving invaluable because it is providing him access to virtually everything. He has Microsoft 365 on two of his laptops, one at home and the other at work, so he can learn anywhere, at any time, without any stress.
On the subject of relieving stress, Tony tells us that the learner WhatsApp groups and Nexford Success Advisors have also been a God send as they’ve opened up direct communication channels to help answer all of his immediate questions. He says, “The WhatsApp groups makes it easier to communicate with other learners, find out what they are doing and how they are doing it, and share learnings to ensure best practice to minimize or eradicate errors.
An online learning platform that keeps on giving!
Tony tells us that what he is also super impressed with is Nexford’s intuitive online learning platform, Canvas. “I love it” he says. “Through the platform I get reminders of when my assignments are due, I can see all of my courses and grades, and I can send emails directly to my professors to let them know that I am facing a challenge or need feedback on a specific task.”
Of course, well before all this came to fruition, Tony was on the hunt for an affordable American university that operated withing the borders of his country. Something that initially proved tougher than he first thought with him only finding overseas universities, one of which was commanding the princely sum of $50,000 to do an MBA. On top of that, he would have to apply for a non-refundable Visa to enter an overseas country which was an absolute no go for him, especially as he was looking to get financial assistance with his tuition.
As luck would have it, working as a Senior Software Engineer at his current company, Andela, came with an added benefit in that it has a part-scholarship agreement with Nexford. All of the planets had aligned, he could retract his applications to two Canadian universities as he had found the perfect online university in Nexford. Now all the barriers to earning an American degree in Ghana were removed. It was time to apply and after acceptance to Nexford, Tony was soon enrolled and making his dream come true.
Hard work and determination will take you far
When Tony started his MBA, he was under no illusion that it would not be a cruise. As a person that makes it his mission to make startups succeed, he knew that it would take a healthy dose of hard work and determination and finding the best way to fit his learning around his busy schedule. But, for Tony there is always a will and a way.
He says, “I am super stoked that with Nexford I don’t have to be a slave to a lecture hall or set times of learning. I can take my courses almost any time of the day. So, what I do usually is I plan most of my heavy-duty work stuff such as meetings earlier in the morning. I can go for my meetings, do all that I need to do and then steal an hour during the day to learn. Then after breaking the back of the day-to-day grind, it leaves me more time at home in the evening to get down to learning for my MBA. And, what I don’t get to in the week I make absolutely sure that I get to on the weekend. They say that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but for now I will take a bit of dullness because I know what the end goal is.”
The man behind the man
That’s all the work stuff. But what about the man behind the man? Where did Tony come from and what about his life growing up? With great fondness he tells us that he grew up in a relatively small nuclear family with his siblings and his dad.
Tony recounts that what was rather uncommon at the time around the 90s was that his father, a merchant banker, was one of the privileged few to have a computer in the house. Little did Tony know then that the ownership of that computer would shape his career.
Of those early stages experimenting with computers Tony tells us that when he got back from school and got his homework out the way he was always playing computer games. But it was not just all about the games, it was about learning about software programs and how they assisted people, like his father, to do their jobs more effectively. As someone that was always keen to learn he asked his father if he could help him understand more about those programs. So, his father decided to teach him all about Excel. And that’s where his love affair with computers really started.
Tony wanted to do it all right there and then, but being an incredibly sensible person he first decided that he need to do science and so he chose to study molecular biology. Pretty high brow stuff, but it was always a means to an end.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again!
After finishing his studies in molecular biology, Tony found his way into a little training school called the National Institute for Technology (NIST).
Of his time at NIST he tells us, “I spent one year there trying to build a startup which was basically a livestock tracking company and then another year trying to get it off the ground. It could have been extremely hard, but I was lucky enough to get about $80,000 funding from NIST. Sadly, after some time we ran out of cash, and then I had to pivot, fast. So I moved to Vodafone, and then later on to Andela. As I said before, Andela was instrumental in getting me into Nexford, so it was all divine intervention I guess.” When Tony is not starting startups he likes to swim and play the guitar. He is actually a budding musician and has a small band that he plays in. Watch out Ed Sheeran. Tony also loves teaching technologies to others, which as he says is his way of paying it forward.
Learn to earn
Obviously it is still early days with his MBA, but Tony tells us that the growing business skills that he is procuring along the way are having a marked affect on his business acumen. He told us that learning how to do business across the world is really opening his eyes to proven methods to become a successful business person outside of the borders of Ghana.
“I was basically doing some legal research into migrating a business from my country to a different country like Sweden” Tony tells us. “My Nexford learnings taught me all about the regulations surrounding that, and provided me with an insight into what to do and what not to do. Something that I can easily relate to my current business, Scratch Code Academy. It has helped me understand if a business is the right fit for a particular country and how research plays a key factor in making informed decisions around moving a business from being local to a global phenomenon.”
But Tony knows that his learning does not end with his MBA. He understands that to really stand out in the job market he simply has to specialize. So, he plans to specialize in artificial intelligence. And as someone that has no plans at present to start a family, or move overseas, he will definitely have all the time he needs to complete those studies and also work toward stabilizing his business and get decent funding to take it to the next level and conquer other markets outside of Ghana.
As a person that’s not secular but rather takes inspiration from people that he comes into contact with on a daily basis, Tony loves the fact that as a software engineer, people are always coming to him for help to fix their computers. He jokes by saying that often that doesn’t just require the usual IT solution of switching it off and on again.
Tony also says that he drew inspiration from his father and how he was at the top of his game and way ahead of the curve. He looked up to him in terms of his achievements, so no wonder then that he elected to follow in his father’s footsteps. And like father like son, Tony is more than just pretty good at what he does.
Seeing is believing, so check out Tony’s video below or on YouTube.
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.
Join our newsletter and be the first to receive news about our programs, events and articles.