In my secondary school days, I had the privilege of spending one long vacation with my maternal grandmother in a village called Agogo in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Something happened during that period which ignited my interest for business.
I accompanied my cousin to the market one day to help him sell some baskets he had woven earlier in the week. I watched the market women as they admired the baskets. They bargained with him and eventually bought them all. I noted the fact that they paid him in full for his services. I saw the satisfaction in their eyes and most important, the fact that they immediately began to use them.
I had been with him throughout that week – cutting palm fronds from the bush, stripping them and weaving the baskets. However, when the sale was eventually made, my cousin rightfully put the money in his pocket.
I had enjoyed the various stages of the process but an interesting reality dawned on me that day: You can be very close to a business opportunity and yet very far away from the experience and its rewards.
I accepted the challenge and followed him to the bush the next day to cut palm fronds for his next set of baskets. However, this time I was not a casual observer. I wielded a machete in my hands and for each frond he cut, I also made sure to cut some for myself. I got him to teach me how to weave my own baskets. It was not as easy as it seemed and after three days, I had only managed to produce one comparatively ‘defective’ basket, compared to my cousin who had done his usual four.
I followed him once again to the market but this time with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I sensibly waited for him to sell all his baskets before I asked for his help to dispose of my ‘ugly duckling.’ Eventually, after a couple of refusals, a woman offered me two cedis for my basket. My sense of fulfilment and joy was overwhelming. I had successfully produced something someone needed, sold it to them and gotten paid for it. I put the money in my pocket with a sense of pride and walked home with my head held high feeling like a successful businessman. I felt fulfilled that I had found the secret to creating wealth. I spent the rest of my vacation weaving baskets ultimately, selling over 50 baskets. I made quite some savings over the period which felt like a lot of money. That was my ‘baptism’ into business. It taught me another important lesson in business: Think big but be willing to start small.
Your beginning or first product may not be perfect but it puts you ahead of those who just talk about going into business but never get round to doing anything about it.
Many of the prospective entrepreneurs you meet, though eager to go into business, are often caught up in the fantasy that they could start in a big way. It is important to emphasize the potential of businesses that start small to be transformed into large corporate entities with international dimensions.
One of our favourite local examples is that of the FC Group which was pioneered by Grace Amey Obeng and her husband as a video rental shop. It grew into a successful video chain before they added on a perfumery.
She later moved into skincare and other beauty products which business has earned her local and international acclaim. Today, the company runs a very successful beauty care chain with a training academy and its own beauty magazine, among others.
Entrepreneurship is key
Entrepreneurship is indispensable. Every economy that has experienced rapid growth has done so because of the existence of a vibrant private sector. Ghana cannot be an exception. It is estimated that the public sector in Ghana currently employs less than a million of the over 26 million people in this country.
Obviously, private sector employment and the establishment of businesses represent the only hope of employment for the several tens of thousands who graduate from our various educational institutions each year. This is evidenced by the number of new businesses registered in Ghana every year.
An entrepreneur, according to the New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, is “someone who runs a business at his own financial risk.” But, how does one get the right business idea? How does a mere idea or dream translate into a clear business concept? Is it better to have some money without an idea or to have a great idea, even if you don’t have the money to implement it? These are some of the questions That must engage us as a nation looking for solutions to graduate unemployment.
Business thrives on the Law of Exchange. It involves the offering of a solution to an existing or impending problem in return for a reward. These solutions are really ideas for sale. The entrepreneur often identifies a need and fashions out or offers a solution people are willing to patronise at a fee.
“Ask any CEO in the world to write a top-five wish list, and we guarantee that ‘more ideas – better ideas!’ will show up.” Hargadon & Sutton
To start a business, you need an idea or concept. Ideas are also useful in facilitating the growth, expansion and reengineering of existing businesses. The key word in idea generation is innovation. You cannot be a successful entrepreneur without being innovative in your approach to business. Many times, a business that gets caught up in stiff competition has to rely on an innovative idea to outwit its competitors. Whether your new business is introducing a brand new concept or promoting a variation of an existing product, innovation will help you have a competitive advantage over other service providers.
Raw but precious
A great business idea is a precious gem. Like gold, it often looks undesirable in its raw state when it is surrounded by dirt. However, as it is refined and defined, it begins to shine and bring out its attractive qualities. Great ideas gather people around them in a unique way. They release energy for their fulfilment and galvanise people in an infectious way into doing the seemingly impossible. GB
To be continued.