Why do we as Africans or as Ghanaians not trust each other? Why do we not have more business partnerships?
How do we read our bibles? Do we pick one part and leave the other or do we only apply certain texts of the bible only to certain contexts? When the bible says ‘Two are better than one’, why do we only apply it to the context of marriage?
What does one have to do with the other you may ask?
I started [what I hope will not be my last] business, Thandi Africa,when I was in my final year of University studies. The first few necklaces I made were crooked,single stranded faux pearl necklaces. I had so many doubts and fears. Nana Adane and Victor Quagraine helped a lot in the early days.
I continued making necklaces with the encouragement I got from my big sister, her boss and my friends Esmeralda and Duke.Eventually, I was making the necklaces in my room on campus. It was very stressful in the early days and the sad part part was that i was not very creative.
Then came the slippers. My best friend had gotten me a pair of slippers from Kumasi which everyone seemed to love. So, being the money hungry girl I was back then, I decided to trade in them. More work! I had to go to the VIP Station to pick the slippers up, meet our supplier to collect handbags and then move to Makola to buy the beads.
This continued for a while till I got tired of doing all this work. I got in touch with a housemate from Achimota School who used to make beaded jewelry back in high school. She still made them but confessed that she felt like giving up because she had no market and little capital.
Today, we supply Nallem clothing, Airport View Hotel, The Ibis Hotel, Alisa Hotel, Best Western Premier in Takoradi, Holiday Inn Hotel and are close to signing a contract with another major retailer. We also employ quite a number of people…but this is just the beginning as they say.
The best part is that Selenu is far more creative with her hands than i am. Mine is only the gift of gab. But we complement each other perfectly. She is the calm one while i am usually like a pot of boiling water:-)
In the course of doing business, I have discovered something which both troubles and amuses me in turn.
Anytime I mention that I have a business partner, people ask me ‘How can you trust her not to collapse the business by the time you come back?’
She has also been asked ‘How can you trust her not to squander the money?’
Then comes the answer ‘Two are better than one’. I am getting a masters degree now. Without my partner at the helm of affairs, the business would have collapsed. I may not even have taken the chance to develop myself further.
I can not begin to recount the number of Ghanaian and African businesses that come to an end when the owner passes on or is sick.
My former boss once told me that ‘ The problem with you Ghanaians is that you do not trust each other.’
Lately, I have been wondering ‘Was he right? Do we as Africans trust each other?
There is an incident which stands out clearly in my mind. We were at Fiesta Royale Hotel in a short discussion with the founder of a major food chain when one of my friends[ a lady, mind you] shared her vision of building a hardware dynasty. The businesswoman looked at us and said, ‘Why don’t the two of you partner and do it? We looked at each other, my friend and I, with questions in our eyes.
Similarly, I remember sharing a business idea I had [ with this businesswoman’s husband] and he asked me why I would not have his wife invest in my business and I thought ‘Can I trust her? Needless to say, i never followed up.
I could share lots of stories to this very point. The most recent one being an amazing Ghanaian lady I met last year. She had all these wonderfully crazy ideas. I loved her! We spent a lot of time sharing ideas and when I told her about the beads we make, she asked me to giver her some of the beads with the agreement that she would sell them in Germany and let me have the money.I called her once and never called her again. I did not trust her.
Have you noticed that almost every business coach who is worth their salt advocates for having a business partner(s).
You do not possess every business skill required to run a business. Of course you can hire people to fill the skills gap, but there is nothing like having someone to share the joys and pains of running a business with.
When a sole proprietor goes on holiday, the business also goes on Holiday. When he/she dies, the business also dies.
The point I am making with my ramblings is that it is about time we built sustainable businesses! Businesses which will stand the test of time. We need to create wealth. Africans need to be wealthy because we need to buy the future. We have been separated too long from our wealth. My Pastor once said that ‘ Anytime someone wants to enslave you, they separate you from your wealth’. The wealth of Africa needs to be restored to her people. We have to stop thinking only of what we will eat today. We cannot build anything sustainable without trust!