Inspiring Start-ups: Audrey Forson See ‘craftwomanship’ at its best

Wooww!!! That was what I said when I saw products made by Tekura Enterprise Ltd. They are carefully crafted; artistically designed; and above all, have been embroiled with African culture and heritage. But what I appreciate most is the brain behind all these—Audrey Forson. Read on as she shares her journey to the top with B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups.

Audrey Forson, born in Accra, is the third of six children and also the senior of twins. She is a product of the Holy Child School and had her first degree at the University of Ghana, Legon – recently acqiring her second degree in MBA, Finance, at the same university. Following that, she did her national service at the Ministry of Defence. But it is quite interesting that with such a background she ended up in the arts industry, where she is now the CEO of Tekura Enterprise Ltd.

Her journey into Tekura

 

Tekura was originally founded by her parents (Takyi and Kurankyewaa). It is a furniture and décor business that exports handicrafts abroad. When Audrey was pursuing her undergraduate programme, she sent internship letters to various banks to gain industrial experience, but they all turned her down. Then she remembered that charity begins at home, so she decided to rather do the internship programme with the family business.

Some, in their capacity as an heir to the ‘business throne’, would have straight away tried throwing their weight about and securing a top position before it was granted them by their parents. Audrey, however, chose to learn from the workers and do menial jobs, like cleaning and running errands, in her own parents’ company. She did this until she completed university and started her national service at the Ministry of Defence.

But national service wouldn’t stop hardworking Audrey from working at Tekura. Around the same time, the company opened an outlet in Osu, a suburb of Accra. After she closed from work at around 1p.m., she spent the rest of the day at the new outlet helping with sales.

It is interesting to learn that all this while when she was still actively engaged in the business, her motive was to later look for a job in another corporate organization – as she considered being at Tekura a family service.

Why she remained at Tekura

As a flashback, she remembers her love for art while growing up. She could just walk around the neighbourhood staring at nature and drawing what she saw on paper. Even though she would come home to face some punishment from her parents for not asking permission to go out, she didn’t stop.

That childhood experience informed her decision to remain and develop the family business, as she was convinced she had an unfinished business in the creative arts industry.

Audrey’s skills were tested when a lady met her at an exhibition organised by an embassy, and asked her to make certain items for her living room. Well, she could not just tell the lady she couldn’t do it. That reality only dawned on her when she realised she was clueless about how to start the job.

But as Rick Warren, an American writer, once said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less”. Audrey approached one of the experienced craftsmen at the shop and asked for coaching. The work was nicely done and presented to the lady, who was overjoyed at the sight of the products.

After that success, she proposed that her parents should also tap into the domestic market, even though patronage was slow compared to exports. They approved, and gave her oversight of the domestic market.

That role was a big one to fill for Audrey, so she decided to brace herself for the work by finding information on the Internet how to brand the business and give her products that touch of finesse. It proved to be useful information for her, as she has always kept being innovative and creative to stay on top of competition at the back of her mind.

One core feature that makes Tekura’s products outstanding is the company’s philosophy of making sure all their products have a touch of African culture and heritage.

Vision

Tekura has the vision of becoming the go-to brand for home décor products. Beyond that, it wants to operate in an environmentally-friendly manner. In line with this, Tekura uses recycled wood for most of its products.

Challenges

The creative arts industry is one of the most challenged in the country. One challenge the industry has experienced is shortage of labour. Because skilled artisans are not enough in the system, they are easily poached by other companies who offer to pay them higher.

Again, the seasonal nature of the job makes it difficult to retain artisans.

Another problem for the industry is marketing. There is no system in Ghana that helps artisans market their products outside, as is available in some other countries.

Challenges of businesses cannot be spoken of without mentioning finance. The creative arts industry requires enough funds to produce well-finished products that are well-branded to appeal to customers, and also make the business profitable.

How education has played a role

Although Audrey didn’t study art as a profession, she is thriving in the industry. She believes her background has played a very important role in the success of her business.

As part of the programme she studied in university included psychology, she says the course has helped her understand human behavior and how to interact with each one of them in a way that will bring needed results.

Again, as someone who studied finance for her MBA there is no doubt she has been equipped with the necessary managerial and accounting skills to man the business well.

Education has also helped with marketing and branding.

How government can support

Government, Audrey says, has a big part to play in promoting the art industry in Ghana. The first thing she wants government to help address is creation of an enabling environment – especially relating to accessibility to cheap credit for the private sector.

“If you are working in an environment where the interest rate is 30 percent and above, how can you borrow to expand your business? Interest rates for SMEs have to be looked at.

“If we are also getting some tax relief; if we are getting access to market through government programmes; if government acts as a catalyst, then the art industry is going to thrive.”

Advice to the youth

“Hard work pays, so if you are young you should be ambitious and work hard to achieve those ambitions. Take time to plan, then stay committed to that plan and try hard to make it successful.”

By Obed Attah Yeboah l thebftonline.com l Ghana