Meet Rita Dampson …the shea butter cosmetician
Indeed, as the saying goes: “life is how you make it,” and not how you came to meet it. Rita has proven to me the truth in that saying. As someone who ended her education at the senior high level because of family breakdown, it would have been so easy for her to give up in life and remain poor in the village, especially after she was given out to marriage. But with her hard work and resilience, she is now an international business woman, thanks to her shea butter business. Find out how she made it to the top.
Rita Dampson was born to a Fante father and a Dagomba mother. She grew up in Tamale and had her education from primary school through to the senior high school in the same city. She is a product of the Ghana Secondary School, Tamale.
Unfortunately for Rita, her parents’ marriage fell on the rocks and so her father abandoned them in the north with only her mother left to take care of all three children. As a result, Rita’s education came to an end after secondary school and she was even given out to marriage.
However, unlike the popular stories we hear about women whose dreams are shuttered as a result of early marriages, Rita has a different story. She didn’t sit at home to produce children but rather learned a skill which has been the foundation of who she is today.
“I started with screen printing”
Rita learned screen printing, kente weaving, and tie and dye making. She committed a lot of time to the art. On one occasion, she was working and her works caught the attention of one white woman.
“The white lady approached me and said she came to Ghana purposely for voluntary work, and that she needed people like me to train. So, I accepted, and she asked me to find other women who were interested so she could train us in soap making. We went through the training and I worked with her for three years. But after three years, she went back to the States.
Then when she went back, she recommended me to another lady who was also coming for voluntary work. She came looking for me when she arrived. She was working with the Savanna Fruit company, and was interested in training the rural women on how to add value to shea. She tasked me to find some women who are interested in the training.”
This development sustained her interest in starting her shea butter business.
The shea butter business begins
As she organised the women for the training, she herself partook of it and learned to use shea nuts to produce butter. Then, she took a step further and learned from one woman who was already into the business. Sooner than she expected, she became qualified to start processing the shea into butter.
Currently, she has a company registered as Ritadams Ventures which processes shea into skin care products. Products she makes include Dampco shower gel, Dampco body cream, Dampco black soap, Dampco hair food, Dampco bar soap and shea mosquito repellent. Because Ghanaians do not value locally made products, she focuses mainly on the international market. Most of her products are exported to countries like Taiwan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
Rita’s products stand out for their quality. She avoids the use of chemicals and stick to natural ingredients, giving her products the sense of naturalness that consumers desire.
She has various groups of women numbering over 1000 who are engaged in the value chain at various levels of production.
A lot of businesses fail because of several factors, including inadequate capital, poor book keeping, lack of managerial skills, among others. But thanks to Enhancing Growth in New Enterprises (ENGINE), a project implemented by TechnoServe Ghana to help small businesses become profitable and efficient, Rita’s business has now gone international.
“ENGINE has played an important role in my business. After I came through the business plan competition, they helped me to get certification at the Ghana Standards Authority. Their platform has always exposed me to new markets and new clients. They have helped me to keep proper accounts also.
Through ENGINE, a Netherland’s NGO programme took me to Kenya to give me extra training. Again, last year, I had the privilege to go to South Africa for an exhibition. All became possible through ENGINE. So, I am grateful to Technoserve for their help.
One main challenge Rita has come across is the general dislike, among many Ghanaians, for locally produced goods. As a result, Rita exports most of her products to other countries. She has countless examples of cases where Ghanaians have doubted the quality of her products just because they are made locally.
Rita wants Ritadams Ventures to grow and expand to become a factory which will produce products that will become a household choice for many.
How she has benefitted from education
Even though Rita ended her education at the secondary level and has no higher education, she uses the little knowledge she acquired at that level to transact business. She is able to read and write, speak English fluently, and is able to relate very well with her customers. Because of the various training programmes she has attended, she has developed excellent marketing and communication skills that have contributed to the success of her business.
How government should support women entrepreneurs
“We have high unemployment rate and it is pushing a lot of young ladies into early marriages, and other unacceptable behaviours. So, if government should extend support to women entrepreneurs to expand their business, they can also employ a lot of these women who will in turn use their income to support their children’s education.”
Advise to women
“I will advise the women to pay serious attention to economic empowerment. We know how to turn the home around. If you are a woman and you have something doing, then you can turn things around. So, my advice to the women is that they should not sit at home but find something doing and that way, they can educate their girl child.”