After leaving a well-paying banking job, Awura Abena excitedly partnered with her best friend, Angorkor Nai-Kwade, to start a fashion line that will make bespoke clothing for only well-paying clients. With no plan nor proper direction, the duo begun making clothes to a few clients till they were hit with the much-needed advice to pursue a more sustainable business model. This advice transformed their business and saw the birth of their most successful retail collection; the GIGI. The success of the GIGI has further urged the founders on to scale up their production for markets beyond Ghana.
The young entrepreneur shared insightful lessons and counter intuitive advice she has learnt from the decision to change her business model from a bespoke clothing line to a ready-to-wear retail collection.
A vision bigger than yourself
Both Lucy Quist and Awura Abena believe that everyone has a responsibility to create prosperity for generations unborn and building a successful and sustainable business was one way to ensure that. Speaking to the context of Africa, Awura Abena shared statistics on Africa’s expected population growth in the next two decades; this she explains, gives the present generation the responsibility to create businesses that will survive and serve this population surge.
“In about 20 years Africa is going to have one of the largest workforce, this is one of the things that are worth celebrating, it is not China, it is not India, it is here in Africa. We are going to be able to change the narrative because we will have the largest workforce. Besides if you are alive today you should think about the next generation, what is going to happen to them? Who should create the companies that employs them? It is our time to change the Africa that the world knows, there is an increased interest in Africa that we should take advantage of because this is our time”,
said Awura Abena Agyeman.
When starting a business, your patrons first buy into you because of your credibility and not necessarily the business. It is therefore very important that entrepreneurs establish and maintain a high standard of integrity in running the business and dealing with customers, suppliers and employees.
Go Global Operationally
Awura Abena explained that the idea of building a business for global markets should inspire entrepreneurs to build businesses which can operate efficiently beyond borders and compete with successful global player. This means the right structures, hiring criteria, supply lines should be firmed up. Lucy Quist added to this by stressing that typically the idea of going global sparks the imagery of creating a business that has an appealing global brand. She advised that businesses must go beyond brand appeal to establishing resilience in business operations for a bigger market.
Hire the right People Always
Awura Abena challenged the notion of building a business just to be your own boss. She explained that this mindset can be problematic for businesses in cases where the founders are not very capable. She challenged current and prospective entrepreneurs to aim at building resilient businesses with the right minds and talents devoid of their personal biases. The goal must be the business and not the entrepreneur’s ego. Entrepreneurs must not compromise on the people they hire therefore. They must also challenge themselves and ensure that they have the right skills for the job.
Focus is Everything
Entrepreneurs were prompted to avoid falling into the temptation of pleasing and serving everyone. It is more efficient to have a business that has a specific focus; focusing gives your business a clear direction, ensures that resources can be properly managed and marketing communication is clear and consistent. Once a business focuses on a particular thing it is easier for it to grow and master in that area.
The Conversation also discussed building and scaling businesses in the Ghanaian context. Awura Abena first alluded to the fact that the world over startups faced many challenges; 9 out of 10 start ups do not survive. She mentioned, however, that despite the challenges, there were many blessings in building a business in Ghana and Africa. She explained that the fashion industry was worth 3 trillion dollars and for a market like Ghana where most clothes are imported there was a huge for locally made clothes. Awura Abena also mentioned Africa’s demographic advantage as providing more workforce for industries and also more customers to clothe.
The Conversations in Boldness sessions are in line with Lucy Quist’s ambitious ‘Bold New Normal’ idea which seeks to inspire Africans to collectively create prosperity for their countries and the continent by stepping away from the usual and taking up new ambitious ventures.
Watch the full discussion below: