Over the past year, How we made it in Africa has interviewed a number of entrepreneurs who are operating businesses in Ghana. While some of them might still have a long way to go before they have ‘made it’ in this growing economy, their entrepreneurial experience has allowed them to gain valuable insight into what it takes to start a business. Here is their advice to Africa’s budding entrepreneurs.
David Osei, co-founder and CEO of Dropifi
Company description: Dropifi is a web messaging platform which replaces the ‘contact us’ form on websites with a real-time widget that streamlines the communication process and eliminates spam. The company was named Best IT Startup in the world in the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Startup Open for 2012.
“It is okay to fail, but it is not okay to not know when you are failing. You need to know when something is going wrong and what is causing that very thing to go wrong.”
“The one advice I will offer to a first-time entrepreneur is to follow his/her interests. As the world continues to advance, new opportunities keep springing up day-by-day, many of which will be tempting because of their potential return in money terms. I am driven by my interests. I do what I do best because I love what I do. Winners are self-motivators and for me, nothing motivates me more than my love for what I do.”
Kosi Yankey, founder of Nuba Foods and Commodities
Company description: A Ghanaian-based business that sources commodities from local farmers and supplies them to industries in West Africa. The company also processes and markets a range of speciality foods and works with over 100 local women and farmers.
“As an entrepreneur, I think I am defined by how I approach everything in life and the way my mind works. I constantly have an urge to understand situations and find solutions for most problems I encounter. In my mind this quickly translates into ways to have impact – start a business that will employ people, develop valuable products, and provide profit for the entrepreneur and investors. I have come to realise that I do enjoy the thought process and I am constantly bombarded in my imagination with ideas. Everyone can have the same thoughts, however, the difference is I know to focus on the most important idea, implement it and ensure that the outcome is or will be desirable. If not, I walk away from the idea and move on.”
Dominic Adu, co-founder and CEO of Ghana Home Loans
Company description: Ghana Home Loans focuses exclusively on the provision of mortgage products to Ghanaians. It operates under the supervision of the Bank of Ghana as a non-bank financial institution.
“Research until you have full confidence in your idea, then be tenacious in driving it through to the end, regardless of the naysayers.”
Derrydean Dadzie, co-founder and CEO of DreamOval Limited
Company description: DreamOval develops internet and mobile software solutions and provides a payment platform for banks and telecom providers.
“Entrepreneurship [comes from] within. Your challenges and how you perceive them determine how you take opportunities around you. There’s no specific age [to be an entrepreneur], but to succeed as an entrepreneur you need to know people. So your life should be built around building good relationships with people.”
“You need to let people trust you and it can only happen through the way you talk, approach people and the way you show them what you know. That process should be started from a very tender age and that forms the basis of becoming a good entrepreneur. You don’t build a successful business around products. A successful business thrives on good relationships.”
Tonyi Senayah, founder of Horseman Shoes
Company description: A manufacturing company that makes quality and fashionable leather footwear in Ghana.
“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.”
“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.”
Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia, founder of Oxford & Beaumont
Company description: A corporate and commercial law firm in Ghana with offices in Accra and London, which has advised clients such as Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Shell International, Vodafone and Citibank.
“Dare to dream but don’t dream unless you are willing to live your dream. Too many entrepreneurs spend too much time dreaming… No point in over perfecting a dream you never execute.”
“I’d encourage aspiring young entrepreneurs to invest in their own personal development. Africa is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. None of us can predict with real certainty what the various markets and opportunities will look in five, ten, fifteen, twenty (etc) years. But we can prepare for these opportunities if we invest in our own personal development.”
Kofi Dadzie, co-founder of Rancard
Company description: Rancard offers mobile content solutions. Its application, Rendezvous, is a social recommendation engine that delivers targeted content from clients, such as mobile operators MTN and Vodafone and content providers BBC and MTV.
“Our approach to expansion has always been based on relevance: how does our product technology enable/catalyse the mobile content ecosystem in a target market, and what’s the most efficient approach to deploying new services?”
“More than anything else, our greatest challenge is building a truly world class team with the skills and experience to grow successfully across Africa. Our approach is to create a world class working environment and culture, as well as to provide the essential leadership needed to drive the right kind of change within the organisation to strengthen the team. Effective communication of who we are, what we do, where we’ve come from and most importantly where we’re going, is how we intend to attract the best minds, highly skilled and motivated people who can help achieve this vision.”
Gerard Yitamkey, co-founder and CEO of Ahonya
Company description: A Ghanaian startup providing an e-commerce platform for electronics and computers.
“Before we started, we were just a bunch of guys in college and if you walk into a company like MTN to present your idea to them, they look at you and think, ‘well you think you can do this?’… So you have to do something extraordinary in the beginning before someone will notice you and take you seriously, and that can put a lot of pressure on you.”