Chris Koney’s column
Like it or not, certain industries are still largely male-dominated. In such a set-up, it is important for a woman to hold her own and succeed on her own terms. It certainly will require extra work, smartness and tactfulness for a driven woman to conquer a male-dominated industry.
Several people have argued for female entrepreneurs in male–dominated sectors to have a mentor who has already seen the ups and downs of the industry which will bode well for these entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Agreeably, a mentor plays a huge role in introducing the challenges to be faced and will help to connect with the right people that belong to his or her network.
Marsixer Olichey is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MX Construction, producers of a range of world class concrete products including concrete building blocks of all sizes, design decorative ventilation blocks, concrete kerbs, pavement blocks and others. She believes having a mentor could be very for female entrepreneurs in male dominated sectors like herself.
Popularly referred to as Nana Ama by her pears, the young female entrepreneur describes herself as a self-motivated person, goal getter, non-conformist, persistent and someone with the desire to acquire knowledge at all times. Until she achieves it or makes it happen, there is no stopping for her.
Nana Ama had a humble beginning growing up with her family in Sunyani in the Bono Region. She is a certified nurse and has a degree in public Administration from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). Nana is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations also at GIMPA.
The young entrepreneur revealed that one of the things she values is family. “For me, family is not just very important but everything. My dad has always been my inspiration and the kind of training I got in my formative years has shaped me into becoming who I am today so I don’t joke with my family,” she added.
On how she started her entrepreneurial journey, she said “to be very honest, I learnt it from my dad, who has been into the poultry business and education; he owns and runs a school. From my early years, I learnt to start saving from an early age and by the time I got to nursing school, I had saved up a lot. I got support from my dad to start my very first business, which was transportation. I bought some cars to be used for work and pay businesses and by the time I completed I had four cars working for me. On the side, I was selling ladies bags and other ladies’ products.”
Nana Ama believes in making sacrifices for long term benefits as she recounted her first degree days. “I remember when I started my degree program at GIMPA, I had no personal car but I had eight cars for my transportation business. I believe in making sacrifices to achieve the ultimate so I wasn’t pushed to convert any of the cars for my personal use,” she revealed.
Interestingly, Nana Ama decided to move into a more male dominated business, construction and started by setting up a block factory. And for the motivation for that move, she said “I always wanted to stand out and didn’t want to do the ordinary things women are mostly known for. After traveling to Turkey and Dubai to buy ladies bags and other items, the business didn’t go well as planned. I never gave up, rather, I did some research and discovered that the real estate business has been one of the fastest growing sectors in Ghana. Then I decide to go for the most used product in building houses, offices, and more.”
About the challenges she faces, she said “when I started, I didn’t have a truck to transport the blocks so it created some delays sometimes and the truck drivers will disappoint you making you look unprofessional sometimes. This created a lot of pressure so I made it a point to work towards acquiring one and with perseverance we managed to get one in a few months.”
She added that, as a female you need to develop a thick skin and know how to handle your clients and know where to respectfully draw the line when it comes to the male clients.
“As a woman, I get a lot of favors from people who get fascinated to see a young lady doing this type of business and genuinely want to assist. Some will go out of their way just to help you and others will also like to take advantage of you and that gets very worrisome. The fact is when you grow with certain principles and you stick to them, you can still grow your business and make a decent margin and not necessarily falling for such antics from men.”
Apart from her quest to succeed, the ability to put smiles on the faces of several people by employing them to be able to put food on the table for themselves and their families is one thing that keeps Nana Ama going every day and striving to grow the business. She also mentioned some principles which have helped her to survive in the business.
“Do not make your gender your focus as it is not your gender but your work and will to succeed that matters in this space. Don’t let stereotypes perturb you. If someone says something that doesn’t sit well with you, do not take it personally. Hold your head high at all times and know that as always, your work will speak for you. Also, you need to build a network of the right people to help you move up the corporate social ladder and also find future partners, investors, and even employees,” she indicated.
Nana Ama urged all female entrepreneurs to be assertive and not aggressive. “If you believe in something, have the courage to raise your voice and share your idea, but never become unpleasant or spiteful in the pursuit of success. Respect cannot be demanded, but only earned. Simply keep putting in your share of the efforts and you’re sure to reach the heights you aspire to,” she emphasized.
In the next five years, she hopes to commence her real estate business. “Through research, I have come to know that we have a housing deficit in Ghana and there is a need to solve this. There is an opportunity to build beautiful, quality and affordable houses for sale or rent and that is a business challenge I will take up,” she concluded.