Inspiring start-ups ....Meet Albert the ‘Papa Tailor’
Albert Justice Tetteh is a young graduate and a fashion designer who struggled through life after the death of his mother when he was in the Junior High school. But it is said that determination and hard work breed success. Find out how his brand, Gold Coast Stiches, is making strides in the fashion industry and how he earned the nickname ‘Papa tailor’.
Justice, born in Kumasi in 1990, is a native of the Greater Accra Region. He is the first of four children. He had his basic education at St. Joseph’s Anglican Basic School at Ashongman, a suburb of Accra; and his secondary education at Ghanata Senior High in Dodowa, where he studied Visual Arts.
He later gained admission to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Rural Arts and Industry in 2014.
After school, Justice did his national service as a Teaching Assistant in the same university. He is currently pursuing his postgraduate in Integrated Arts at KNUST.
Life was very tough for Justice from his childhood through to his adult life. He lost his mother when he was in his third year in the Junior High School and was preparing to write his B.E.C.E. This resulted in severe hardship on his family.
So, after his exams, he engaged in casual work such as weeding and construction work, popularly known as ‘by day’ to help raise some money to support his younger siblings and also save towards his secondary education. These struggles continued through his senior high school to the university. In the university, he engaged in a kind of business on campus popularly known as ‘commer’; a term which stems out of the word ‘commercial’. It is a kind of work where students who felt lazy or unable to do their practical works outsourced them to fellow students and paid them for their services. Justice capitalised on this for his pocket money.
Growing up, however, Justice wanted to be an architect. But advancing through the university, he couldn’t get the course he wanted so he chose Integrated Rural Arts and Industry. That was when all the tailoring dream started.
The birth of his entrepreneurial journey
Drawing was also another passion Justice entertained. On one occasion, a concept came to his mind and he drew a shirt and presented the style to a tailor to sew for him. But he wasn’t content with the final work. So, he reasoned: “I am an arts student; why don’t I learn how to sew and see if I can do a better job than this tailor did for me?”
So, he decided to find someone to teach him how to sew. But he didn’t really have money to learn it full time from any tailor. So, he devised a master plan.
“There were some tailors around our school campus. So, I took some of them as friends and offered to go there every day in the morning and tidy up their shops for them. So, when I close from lectures every day, I go to the shop and the tailors will teach me how to sew. Through that, I learned how to sew without any charge.”
In level 300, during his mandatory industrial internship, he used the opportunity to hone his skills at the same shop. Then right after he graduated, he didn’t waste time but set up in his own living room and registered it with the name: Gold Coast Stiches.
Now, he has successfully introduced four collections of clothing lines which has well been received by the market. They are: Golden Dashiki, Republic of Batakari, Ohene and Ohemaa, and Obaasima (an accessory of bags and shoes for ladies) collections.
How he markets his products
Because of his education and other commitments, Justice has not been able to engage in mass production. So, what he does is to take orders from some boutiques and supply them as and when necessary.
Again, because he cannot afford to advertise on the organised media, he takes advantage of social media platforms to market his products. Through that, he has been able to make contacts with a lot of people who have become regular customers.
It is impossible for a young man with such a tough beginning to become an entrepreneur without facing challenges.
One major challenge he faced was when he made the decision to enter into tailoring; his close friends expressed shock about his decision and asked him why he would complete the university to become a mere tailor. They made fun of his decision, hence, was nicknamed ‘Papa tailor’.
“I nearly quit. My colleagues in school nicknamed me papa tailor and I felt so discouraged at some point. But I decided to turn the mocking into fun by adding some spice to the name. So, instead of papa tailor, I changed it to ‘papi tailor’, and that is how they call me now.”
Another challenge he still battles with is, of course, capital. We know the system with our macroeconomy where interest rates are in the region of 30percent, making it very difficult for small businesses to borrow. This has made it very difficult for Justice to expand his business, and as a result, continues to run his business on a very small scale.
How education has helped him
There are so many people in the fashion industry that do not have any higher education, yet successful. But for Justice, education has been an eye opener. University education places emphasis on research and wide reading, hence, he normally goes online and visit fashion websites that will give him a wide variety of ideas and styles. This, he says, has improved his work and helped him to become more creative and innovative than his colleagues who are not highly educated.
Justice is building a brand that he wants to become one of the leading names in projecting African fashion across the world.
He is also passionate about creating employment for young people who have the desire to enter the fashion industry.
Justice believes government can support the industry by placing much emphasis on vocational education and setting up the needed structures to help students in the area to set up their own businesses immediately they come out of school.
How he is helping others
Sometimes, Justice gets the opportunity to travel outside the country to showcase his collection at exhibitions. So, he uses that opportunity as a kind gesture to take along products made by other young entrepreneurs to market for them and returns to them the proceeds.
Advise to the youth
“I will advise my fellow brothers and sisters that: now is not the time for them to sit down and wait for government or some other institutions to employ them. Make your mind up to employ yourself and others after school, and you can make it!”
Anytime you are looking for a quality African wear, being it smock (batakari), African print shirts, slacks or bags and shoes designed with African fabrics, look nowhere. Papi tailor and his Gold Coast Stiches brand, is your solution.