Graphic Business News

Develop policies to help us - Women in business appeal

By: By Ama Amankwah Baafi
Mrs Michelle Dassah, CEO, Laam Shea Product
Mrs Michelle Dassah, CEO, Laam Shea Product

Women entrepreneurs, in commemoration of the International Women’s Day, have called on the government and all concerned stakeholders to help grow their businesses by developing policies to help them grow to international standards to be able to contribute to socio-economic development.

Some of the women have, therefore, called for the synchronisation of the operations of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to encourage them to submit to global product requirements.

They said there seemed to be lack of coordination and cooperation between the two main regulatory agencies which did not augur well for a good business environment.

The International Women’s Day 2020 is on the theme, “i am generation equality: realizing women’s rights.”

How they got into business
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Laam Shea Product, Mrs Michelle Dassah, in an interview on March 6, 2020, expressed concerned about the duplication of efforts which adds on to cost.

“Going through a certification that looks same at both the GSA and the FDA affects our bottom-line cost,” she complained.

Tracing her journey into becoming an entrepreneur, Mrs Dassah recalled what started as looking for a cure for a skin problem with her twin son later became an avenue to be creative and also provided a learning curve about the cosmetic and personal care industry in Ghana and beyond, and literally turning into a jack of all trades (formulator, marketer, accountant, sales and a mother).

'Business experts have often encouraged women to take advantage of advancement in information, communication and technology for them to grow their businesses.
They say that the ICT sector, which offers numerous opportunities, has been dominated by males'

Ms Zakiya Suleman, also a woman in business told the Graphic Business that she abandoned the search for job after graduating from the university.

She has since 2016 been processing maize to producing asali hausa koko mix (a local breakfast in powdered form) and beans into ‘koose’ (a local pastry), under the brand name Zacky foods processing.

So far so good even though there are challenges. it’s not all that bad because we learn something out of them.

“Running a business in Ghana is not easy, especially with no background in entrepreneurship and when the capital came from my little savings and family and friends,” she said.

Zakiya has five contract staff, applies both manual and machinery in the line of production and resort to social media to promote and market her business.

Their challenges
Mrs Dassah said one of my main challenges continues to be the average Ghanaian’s perception about made-in- Ghana products, albeit, the tremendous efforts at galvanising support for local manufacturers.

“You will still find people questioning our products, But Laam shea we have focused mainly ensuring our clients receive the highest quality products over the years, and this has resulted in a steady increase in client’s loyalty,” she said.

Another issue she said was peculiar to the cosmetic and personal care sector had to do with funding to improve and increase capacity to take advantage of growing demand for natural products globally.

Also, having to combine the pressures as a young wife and mother and the demands as a growing entrepreneur has not been easy.

Zakiya, on the hand said access to funds and market as a growing entrepreneur prevented her from putting certain structures in place to expand.

“As i talk, i need an investor or a partner to expand. i have tried it several times and it didn’t go well but i will try again,” she said.

Some successes
Mrs Dassah said in spite of the challenges, it has been a fulfilling enterprise, especially when she sees the relief and happiness on the faces of clients who use her products to solve skin and hair care issue.

“It provides an avenue of increased income to the women, especially in the northern part of the country who consistently supply us our premium quality raw ingredients.

“Again, having access to a world-renowned mentor in corporate America, through the Cherie Blair foundation has played a significant role in strategic decisions regarding Laam shea,” she added.

In Zakiya’s opinion, the tight job market had caused an entrepreneurial revolution among the youth, especially the female.

“The government alone cannot solve all the issues by giving all of us money to start. Some of us are just asking for requirements to register to be made easier for young start-ups, as the current process is cumbersome and capital intensive,” she appealed. 

Mrs Dassaah appealed that institutions that are mandated to provide support for businesses, especially small and medium enterprises should ensure equity and fairness in the discharge of their duties, while offering opportunities to female owned businesses.

Ghanaian women
Ghanaian women form over 52 per cent of the country’s population. The main economic activity for women in the rural areas in pre-colonial times was agricultural production. Those along the coast sold fish caught by men.

But many of the financial benefits from their commercial activities went into the upkeep of the household.

Hitherto, trading has been the main economic activity for those with little or no education living in the urban centres.

Despite gains in some areas, gender inequalities continue to limit women’s ability to participate in and contribute to the growth of the economy.

The Ghana Association of Women Entrepreneurs (GAWE), has often advocated that the government must focus on Ghanaian women in business, especially when they act as trainers.

It said women in business who desired to train others must receive the full backing to pull others along, and that there should be more collaboration between them and the various ministries, departments and agencies and that will help improve the lots of women.