Awura Abena & Nai-Kwade …the brains behind ‘Wear Ghana’
Their day starts earlier than usual. Overwhelmed with orders from clients. Hectic, is an understatement in defining how tough a typical day is in the lives of Awura Abena & Nai-Kwade.
Such has been the life of these two young ladies who gave up well-paying jobs to chase their dream of becoming fashion designers. It all begun with Awura Abena.
Awura Abena Agyemang, born in Tema in the Greater Accra Region, is the sixth of nine children, and the Co-founder of Wear Ghana. She lost her father at age eight and so their mother bore the sole responsibility of raising them. She had her basic education at DEKS Educational Institute in Tema; but home-schooled during her secondary education where she studied Science.
In just two years, she passed and gained admission at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and graduated with a degree in Agriculture Economics in 2008. She did her national service with the New York University (NYU) based in Ghana.
Unlike many graduates who struggle for jobs after school, Awura Abena was fortunate. She landed a job right after her national service with Pro-Credit, now Fidelity Bank.
How the entrepreneurial dream started
Awura Abena became fascinated with African prints during her national service at NYU. She observed that most of the foreign students loved the African prints and bought a lot of them when returning to their homeland. But she, an African, did not own any dress made of African prints. She felt she does not really need one at the time, as there was no place to wear it to.
But as at the time she begun work with Pro Credit, the government had begun a campaign for people to put on African prints on Fridays, dubbed: ‘Friday Wear’ as a way of promoting the local textile industry. The bank, to that effect, required every staff member to put on an African Wear on Fridays. Awura Abena now finally had one reason to own an African wear.
So, out of that joy, she began designing her own style of dresses to wear on Fridays. Her designs caught the attention of her sister and some friends. One of those friends was so enthused about her designs to the extent that he bought her a sewing book. As a way to show gratitude to him, she promised to get him a nice design. So, on her friend’s birthday, she decided to surprise him with a nice shirt.
“I went to the shop and bought a nice shirt and designed it with some African prints. I sent it to my friend as a birthday gift and he really loved it. So, based on his reaction, I was motivated to do more. Other people saw it and became interested and made orders. There I realised the fulfilment I had for this new “hobby” was far greater than what I had from banking.”
Then she decided to register her hobby under the name ‘Wear Ghana’.
While at ProCredit, she applied for a job in another bank. She was called for an interview and was successful. Her new job offered her more than twice her salary plus other fringe benefits. Awura Abena, however, could not ditch her new-found love—fashion—for another job. So, she turned down the offer and even resigned from the bank in October 2013.
Well, it is said that great minds think alike. She met Angorkor Nai-Kwade, her former roommate in the university who had also resigned from her job with one of the telecommunication companies and ventured into full-time sewing. For Nai-Kwade, she even took her interest further and went to learn how to study Fashion and Designing. Their union then became a perfect match.
The real business starts
Even though both of them had worked for some time, for some curious reasons, they had no savings available. But grace found them, as a friend of Awura Abena offered to give them a loan of GH?5,000 to start with.
With the money, they launched their clothing line and started the business in a small container shop. After some months, they moved to the garage of Nai-Kwade’s house at Gbawe, a suburb of Accra, where they are currently based.
The business has since transitioned from a made-to-measure one, to producing in bulk quantities and supplying them to shops and to individuals as well. Currently, they employ five personnel.
In May, this year, they launched their first retail collection known as ‘GIGI’ which has been well received by the market and has even tripled their customer base.
Just as is done by most young entrepreneurs, social media has been Wear Ghana’s primary source of advertising. Through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and others, they have made contacts with a lot of customers.
They also have a website stocked with a lot of pictures of their products where customers can even make orders.
Every start-up business cites access to finance as their major challenge. But with Wear Ghana, it is a different situation.
“I think the biggest challenge for us entrepreneurs is lack of entrepreneurial knowledge. Many feel it is capital, but we can have the capital and the business will still fail because we will not be able to manage it well. And many start-up businesses collapse because of poor management. So, I feel that is our biggest challenge,” says Awurabena.
We all know that in Ghana, we have a situation whereby, if we are asked to name businesses that have thrived beyond their founders, you will get only a few. And it is all because we don’t structure our operations as people running a business. So personally, the biggest challenge I have seen is getting access to the training that we need for our businesses to be successful.”
But fortunately for them, another entrepreneur introduced them to a company known as ‘Serveled’, which has the vision of preparing start-ups to become giant businesses.
Both ladies are all graduates from KNUST and have succeeded in applying some of the knowledge they acquired from the classroom.
For Awura Abena, the best contribution education has brought to their business is professionalism. She believes education has helped them to be more efficient in management of their resources and handling of customers.
“We do not wait for a customer to contact us if they have their orders delayed. We contact the customers to inform them on any development that has caused the delay. This is something almost all the seamstresses and tailors do not do. But through education, we know the value of communication.”
“We want to promote a brand that appeals to all Ghanaians and Africans both in and out of the continent.”
Even though their business is just three years old, Wear Ghana is making efforts to contribute their quota to the society.
Currently, they are appealing for funds from the public to help Dr. Abdulai Shekhina Clinic in Tamale, a clinic which the late doctor dedicated to taking care of the mentally challenged, lepers, orphans, and the needy. Wear Ghana is donating GH?3 on every dress sold to the hospital.
“For me, start-ups are the solutions to unemployment. So, I will advise graduates and other young ones to think about something they can do, and go ahead and do it. And I believe they can succeed.”