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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Columnist: Akpah, Prince

The Journey So Far With Israella Kafui Mansu

Earlier this year (2014) I had the opportunity to interview an upcoming young entrepreneur who has made this year one among the memorable. From appearance in documentaries, TV shows, and high delegation programs Israella is one among the few young people making a mark for Ghana on both the local and international stage. Recently during the launch of the Youth Enterprise Support policy she sat on the right hand side of the president.
Enjoy this deep insight into her life that she shared with me, Israella I am very grateful and congratulations on all your achievements and inspirations.
Prince: Can you share with us when and where you were born?
Israella: I was born in Sogakope on the 26th of October 1985 but moved to Liberia with my brother and parents shortly, where we spent six years in Liberia and came back to Ghana.
Prince: Since you spent only six years in Liberia, how was your basic schooling like?
Israella: I started schooling at age six that is, class one when we returned to Ghana. I couldn’t school in Liberia because it was the beginning of the war. During the war no one had opportunity to be stable in school and therefore I couldn’t attend kindergarten or nursery as we call it here.
Prince: Can you give us a brief account on the schools you attended?
Israella: I started my basic education at Sogasco Primary and then moved to Dabala LA primary which was then referred to as Dabala E.P primary and then moved to the junior high school in same school. My mum was transferred as a matron to a different environment so I had to move from Dabala JHS 2 and to complete my JHS3 in St. Francis Demonstration JHS also called Franco Demor in Hohoe. I gained admission into the Anfoega senior high school in the Kpando District and completed my tertiary education at the University of Ghana, Legon.
Prince: What have being some of the memorable achievements that you had during school days?
Israella: Ok, during my school days, one that, I can say was an achievement was that, in Dabala JHS 2, the school selected me to represent them in STME (Science Technology and Mathematics Education) which was held at Sogakope SHS campus. Beside that I represented my class for district examinations and competitions. Also during my second year in Anfoega SHS I participated in an open literature competition meant for the whole school which we were supposed to write a creative story and I successfully placed the third position. This is something I have always being happy about because the first two ahead of me were third year students, boys and science students. I was studying Home Economics and I placed third whiles in the second year. So many third year students equally good also participated in the competition, but I placed third.
Prince: What do you do as an entrepreneur?
ISRAELLA: (Smiles) as an entrepreneur, I research into natural cosmetic products, design, develop and commercialize them myself. As a result of that I have employed people for the past three years to give a helping hand and by His grace the work keeps going on and on.

Prince: How did you start your Company?
Israella: I’ve always had an idea of owning a manufacturing company but for this very company, it came as a result of finishing my National service late 2009. After thriving to get a job which proved futile, I started this business as little as I could. I remember having about GH¢300 from my own savings or sales from trades that I’ve done before and during my National service. I decided to use it to start this very company from my kitchen, so at that time, my kitchen was my laboratory for formulating my products and it was also the same place where I prepared the first few cosmetic products.
Prince: In starting your company, what inspired you to believe that you can do it?
Israella: I’ve always been industrious right from childhood and I keep on saying, my experience in Liberia, the struggle to survive, the zeal to survive to see the next day have being part of me. So right from Class four in Dabala, I assisted the traders in some trading activities. I have sold water and sugar bread etc in the Dabala Market until JHS when we left and even in JHS and SHS at home we prepared pastries and fruit juice to sell to students. Even in the university I was trading whiles schooling. So you could see, I’ve been industrious my entire life.
In starting the company, I had two main visions in mind to make money to survive and create jobs to employ people because the rate of unemployment in the country now is just so high and pathetic, so these factors motivated me to start this very company.
Prince: What did you discover to explore this opportunity?
Israella: What I discovered to explore this field now is me identifying some health issues in cosmetology in the country being that we have too many unsafe cosmetic products in the Ghanaian market, too many harmful ones, so I decided to research into natural cosmetic ingredients and came up with a formulation to help solve and save health problems in cosmetology.
Prince: What would you have lost if you hadn’t started your company?
Israella: I would have lost big time if I didn’t start this company because who I was 4 years ago and who I am today, there is a very big difference in terms of financial and social status, knowledge and experience wise have made me a different person today. If I were to be employed by someone else, I wouldn’t have being this rich in knowledge and experience, I wouldn’t have created jobs and employ people to help them make a living to survive or to support their livelihood and family.
Today I would have lost a lot, trust me, because things have really changed 4 years down the line. Five years ago I applied for a Visa to go to the US and I was bounced but today I have business meetings with the ambassador of US to Ghana in his own home and the staffs in the US embassy know me due to my products so I don’t think I would be bounced any time I go to the embassy but rather be recognized even in other embassies so that’s the difference.
Prince: How has the journey being so far?
Israella: (Sighs) the journey has not being easy, I have come across a whole lot of challenges but it’s worth it. My first challenge has been human resource or managing employees. I can keep saying this that, employees keep seeing money coming in every day and cashing cheques. They don’t know how much balance is left in the bank, they don’t know what the expenses out there are bringing back to the company but rather, they feel there is money to enjoy. Every other challenge has become part of me that I don’t really see them as challenge anymore, as a young start-up entrepreneur, I complain about finance that’s where I use to think few years back, but I’ve grown to learn to know it is not all about money, there’s more to it than the start-up capital.
Prince: You have being nominated for the Cecilsons Africa Awards; do you think you really deserve it?
Israella: I deserve it because I have achieved a lot compared to my age mates, colleagues who I completed the university with. I’m not boasting but I’ve got far into this business both locally and internationally. I’ve received international awards from global platforms and export my products. I do not know of other young entrepreneurs who export as much as I do but I go as far as Asia, Japan, US, South Africa and other countries I might not even know of. My wholesalers in Makola tells me that, a lot of francophone countries in West Africa are coming in for my products and they are wondering why and I tell them, it is the natural quality of my product. I believe I am pushing Ghana out there by raising the flag of Ghana very high and this is just my stepping stone.
Prince: It’s good you’ve brought up your achievements, could you brief us more on your achievements with your company and products?
ISRAELLA: It all started late 2012. In every business it’s important you need to learn every day as one of our learning platforms. I started by participating in business competitions to learn. I started with Enablis Ghana, UT Bank or ABC Enablis Business Launch Pas Competition in the late 2012 and placed third. After that, I participated in the Ghana Startup Cup and placed second. I was awarded by the deputy minister of trade in South Africa, in April 2013 and awarded by the European Women Inventors and Innovation Association which took me to Sweden where I was awarded.
I was not only awarded but also went through series of interviews that provided documents to prove that I deserve to be recognized so it just didn’t come on a silver platter. It was more of a competition but I won and the very night I was leaving Sweden I was to pick up another award with Ghana Startup Cup so my mum had to receive that award on my behalf. Currently, I am in one more business competition which is Ghana’s Next Young Entrepreneur and I am part of the final Six, being part of the final six is a very great achievement.
Prince: As a young entrepreneur, do you get response from other young people and employees about the impact of what you do?
Israella: yes, I get a lot of responses about the impact that I’m creating and my employees are so grateful for this opportunity. It’s a rare one because we just don’t just work for money, but also help them solve their social and financial issues like paying school fees and accommodate them. I currently accommodate 3 of my employees, they sell on commission basis, they also have monthly allowance and I intend to do more of this because I know there are lots of people out there who really want to work but have accommodation problem and other social issues that need support. In terms of my production, I train them to manufacture these products and then I know that one day they can be sustainable on which ever vocation that they learn from here and then go out there and perform. The society at large is just so happy about what I do, I get feedback through my employees who go to the field that people are just so much happy about what I’m doing because as a young girl, I’ve created jobs and employed these young people which they are happy about.
Other authorities also do recognize what I’m doing. I was very surprised few days ago, I had an email from a US department, telling me that they have heard about my inspiring story on how I am helping to push Africa forward, and I was just amazed about that. It is my personal email address and for very important things so I wondered where they got my personal email address. It is not same email I have on my website or my Facebook pages so where did they get it from? It means they equally got it from another important platform.
Prince: What has being the biggest failure so far in your Company?
Israella: Sincerely speaking, we do not have any failure, I do not know how come, I hear people talking about failure that have made them gone back to zero and rose again. Since I started, I’ve not had any major failure, maybe basic things such as the temperature of a product being a little high and then an employee not being careful enough, pouring such product into a container, temperature of the product melting the container, spoiling its shape. It becomes something we can’t sell.
Prince: The social course that you are passionate about is youth unemployment, how do you intend to contribute more?
Israella: I have a number of areas to tackle, by so doing I am helping to solve those developmental challenges. First one is creating sustainable employment, coaching young entrepreneurs, myself and people younger than me and even people older than me who deserve to be coached, mentored or trained. I’ve being doing that ready to do more of such because I believe if myself can create employment for over 20 people then if I coach a co-enthused entrepreneur, and that person can create that 20 or more jobs together we are helping solve the problem. So it is about creating jobs and helping others to do same.
Prince: What would be your advice to other entrepreneurs on how to rebuild Africa as to what you are also doing?
Israella: I identified high rate of corruption in Africa, it is very important that whichever area we find ourselves we avoid corruption, bribery, deliver quality services and good standard products, we should look at the international market and target services and products of international standard . We should always discipline ourselves, be determined, hardworking, start with little and limited resources that we have, we shouldn't expect to start big, we should start small and it will grow to which ever level we want to reach.
Prince: What are some of the future plans of MGL NATURALS?
Israella: MGL Naturals basically wants to see our products in the global markets, big cosmetic distribution houses like the wall marts as a brand but for Mansuki Ghana Ltd, which is the company itself wants to have other manufacturing companies especially in the food industry. Where we will process by canning, or any appropriate form of food preservation because so many post-harvest challenges in Ghana that causes food shortage, so if we take that up, people in the agriculture sector will have a good Ghanaian market to sell their products to and also sell international to bring home some foreign exchange.
Prince: what are some of the things we will see you personally do in the nearby future?
Israella: I want to set up a very good home and also be a mother to many not just my own biological children but any child that would come way and I can afford to keep that person as a child and inspire the world.
Prince: Who are those that inspire you in terms of your mentorship?
Israella: the number one person is the president of Global Women Innovators and Investors network, this woman is not just a hardworking inspirational achiever but she has helped me to achieve a lot on the global market, I believe people we look up to mentor and inspire us cannot just speak verbally but takes you and walks you into office to seek for help on your behalf, so Dr. Mrs Bolamise, I am very grateful for opening international doors to me. As a woman, she has taken it upon herself to recognise women globally who are innovator s and inventors. besides her I love to watch Dragons Den, Shark Tank, all the dragons and sharks inspire me a lot; when I say the sharks and dragons they are they are the big millionaires US and UK based entrepreneurs, the way they do their things, determined, they work and go in where there is money. Over here in Africa or Ghana when you sound like you are so business minded, you want to make money through the genuine way, people see you are too money conscious with a lot of discouragements, but it is very important you live something for people behind when you are gone to survive on. I love watching these shows and on the show, Start-up companies, both old and young entrepreneurs come with their ideas seeking for finance and when they tell their stories, I get inspired. In Ghana, Prince KofI Amoabeng, of UT Bank who started as shoeshine but now owns a lot of holdings like banks, real estates and so on, Mike Nyinaku so I get inspirations from almost everywhere.
Prince: Definitely with this drive and passion, I see you making onto the world ranking on Forbes, Times and other organisations, what do you think they will recognise you for?
Israella: my passion and apart from seeking international freedom, my passion is to make other people create employment so I want to be recognise for employing the highest number of people in Africa and not just any employment but sustainable ones that would keep them good income to live on.
Prince: What are acknowledgements for people who have inspired you to this level?
Israella: I highly appreciate the president of the Global Network of Women Innovators and Inventors a wonderful mentor and mother to me and to Mr. Addey Morton, he has being nominating me for international awards, writes about me and he has being pushing me to heights that would make me more visible on the local and international market. My biological mother has also very supportive financially and morally, she has being there for me, I have always being on the field, she is always at homemaking sure that everything is fine. And to all my staffs, friends, co-young entrepreneurs, lecturers I am highly grateful more their support.
Prince: What are your final words to other young people out there who are about to enter into entrepreneurship?
Israella: They should research both on field and online. On field you can be mobile in Ghana, researching but to know what is going on out there globally, you need to get online to know because you can afford ticket going up and down. So they must make visibility studies on whatever fields they want to get into. They should not get their start-up capital and jump into whatever business they want to get into. They should with the budget at hand and not make budgets onto what they can’t afford. They should be humble, hardworking, seek for knowledge and education because it is very important, education is number one. When you add education to your natural God given talent, you will go far.

Thank You
Akpah Prince
akpahprince@ymail.com