Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back, says Ghanaian footwear entrepreneur

Tonnes of second-hand shoes from the West find their way into Africa every year. Tired of second-hand products, Ghanaian Tonyi Senayah decided to start Horseman Shoes, a manufacturing company that makes quality and fashionable leather footwear in Ghana. Senayah told How we made it in Africa’s Dinfin Mulupi about doing business in Ghana, his expansion plans and why Africa needs visionary and incorruptible leadership to get to the next level.

Tonyi Senayah

Tonyi Senayah

What inspired you to establish Horseman Shoes?

Horseman Shoes was inspired by two things. One was the desire to create employment for young people with skills in shoe craftsmanship. I noticed that there were young shoemakers who had skills in the art but were confined to their little corner shops. The idea was to identify and bring them together so we could have better commercial and economic impact.

Secondly, I also wanted us to move away from the patronage of second-hand products. I believe we deserved something new and decent for our souls rather than pre-owned products imported from Europe. Our target market includes young professionals and the working class. We also do contract manufacturing of school sandals for senior high schools in Ghana. For now our focus is on the local market here in Ghana. We want to build a solid foundation at home before looking at the international market.

Tell us about the lessons you have learnt running a startup in Ghana.

Startup entrepreneurs run and manage all facets of their enterprises. These include production, finance and marketing duties, among others. One gets these hands-on experiences the real and hard way. As you start your own business you realise it requires a great deal of discipline and tenacity to carry on. These, among other virtues of entrepreneurship, I have come to learn with time.

Describe the challenges you face.

The challenges we face as an infant enterprise are numerous but are surmountable. One of the challenges is the availability of quality human resource. Getting young people with the right attitude and the willingness to start small is very difficult. Easy access to finance is also another great challenge we face as young enterprises.

What advice would you give young African entrepreneurs?

We are surrounded by lots of opportunities. The most important step is the beginning. Young people should step out of their comfort zones and try. They should not let the fear of failure hold them back; with the right attitude and determination, everything is achievable.

Describe your future plans.

We hope to expand our product line to include leather bags, belts and many other fashion accessories. The Horseman Shoes vision is to establish a footwear manufacturing company in Ghana and beyond, in terms of employment and brand preference. This is a vision we are ready to commit and dedicate all our efforts and resources to achieving. It is not a final destination that one can predict or tell the duration in reaching. We hope in the next five years Horseman Shoes will become a household footwear brand in Ghana. In pursuance of this, we seek to provide quality and fashionable footwear to meet the unique taste of the Ghanaian and international markets.

What will it take for Africa to realise its potential?

We sit in abundance yet we lack. We are endowed with so much mineral resources and yet we are a measure of poverty. We have the opportunity to be a great continent and become a super power but it will not happen through providence. We have to work towards it like the rest of the world has done. It will require bold, visionary and incorruptible leadership to take us to the new horizon.