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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Columnist: Graphic.com.gh

The micro entrepreneur with big ambitions

Joyce Antwiwaa was born in Agona Swedru to two love birds who met, liked each other and finally led themselves and the two families to the altar in one of the then small chapels in the Central Region of Ghana. Two years after the arrival of Joyce, the family relocated to Koforidua.

Joyce attended the New Juabeng Secondary School and read a programme not really related to her current passion. After completion, she had to wait for about three years before starting a series of programmes that earned her a Bachelor’s degree in marketing from the university.

The inspiration

Unlike others, the inspiration to start her own business did not come in scanty, periodic flashes as is often common to most of the stories of earlier entrepreneurs published in this column. A micro beads maker who sold her stock to the neighbours in the area entered Joyce’s family home in Koforidua somewhere around 2009. When she exhibited her merchandise, Joyce fancied them. She purchased whatever she could readily afford.

But when the lady returned a few weeks later with much more exotic stuff, Joyce felt that the energies imbedded in her future certificate in marketing could transform a similar business into something worthy of envy. When the beads maker came back again, Joyce struck a deal with her.

When school went on recess for the long vacation, Joyce put herself through training. By the time she was due to return to school to complete her last two semesters, her training had taken shape. She continued to train herself in her newfound passion, researching the products, understudying the markets, exploiting the potentials of demographics relevant for her passion and aligning all her experiences to the future trade.

Experiences

One of the problems that beset Joyce was her inability to transition smoothly from the senior secondary to the university. Instead of this being a setback in the life of the early adult, it furnished for Joyce the foundation for experiences that she would be proud of later in life.

Joyce’s father’s friend, Dr Michael Agyekum Addo and CEO of Kama Group of Companies, came over to visit her family. She interacted with him and when he found out that she had to retake her exams one more time, he advised against it.

Dr Michael Agyekum Addo, a business mogul and a man of considerable knowledge who believed in non traditional career paths, counselled her to consider working for a while before deciding to continue schooling. The next two and a half years saw her in Kama Health in Koforidua as a cashier, then in Accra assisting production in the same company.

Joyce would confide in me later during the interview when I tried to locate the source of her entrepreneurial ingenuity that the personal philosophy of her father’s friend was central in implanting this own-your-business principle in her.

Products

Joyce named her little enterprise New World Handmade. This business commissions some of the most colourfully exquisite beads from the land famous for such distinctions, Somanya. With these raw materials, she sets out, together with the about 22 other gifted hands, to make beads that not only appeal to Ghanaians at home and Africans in the diaspora but non Africans as well.

New World makes bracelets of some rare kind, necklaces for casual as well as for those on their way to the altar, anklets of African taste for some rebellious youth and fashion craze ladies and beads for the broad as well as slim waists of women. She turns leather bags too into beaded stuff that make holders look astonishing.

New World is into millinery. Joyce makes fascinators, wedding fans and hats from fabrics. These too have a huge local appeal and some reasonable demand in the diaspora.

Local customer base

New World, when it started, sold its mechanise to fellow students in the Garden City University College. With time, the customer base widened to include persons outside the university. Then cloth line shops and beauty salons joined in. By the time Joyce was walking out of the university and getting set to go to the altar, staff of some banks had become her clientele.

After her wedding, the shop and showroom moved to the veranda of the couple’s house in Abuakwa. Today, New World’s shop sits close to the end of the dual carriage road connecting communities on the Sofoline to Abuakwa.

Foreign markets

The customers of New World are young, free, mostly professional women in the United States, Europe and Ghana. The foreign markets bring her in excess of 68 per cent of her revenue. These are largely online customers who shop cosmetics around the world. At www.newworld.com, Joyce exhibits her wares and attracts lots of customers worldwide.

Challenge

The only noteworthy challenge New World wishes to share with readers and fellow entrepreneurs is this: Joyce comes from a middle-class home. University education was assumed mandatory for her. When she returned home on vacation, met the neighbourhood beads maker and fell in love with the trade, her mother kept her mounting disgust in indifference. Joyce’s father, an outspoken man, unleashed his version of fury and disgust by criticising her decision and deriding it. Both of them won’t pay for the training.

Prospects

Joyce is turning the backhouse of her husband’s clinic into a school of cosmetology. That school is ready and starts in February, quite likely before this article hits my column. And when New World comes to be, Kumasi would have added one more trade school to its list of schools that are taking the heat off the streets of the metropolis.

Joyce is married to a chemical pathologist. The entrepreneur tells me that her husband has been an enormous support in multiple ways to her. These supports, she testifies, helped grow New World Handmade.