Gideon Denzo …food engineer turns classic shoe-maker

To those who have their own reservations about made in Ghana shoes, thinking they are not of high quality, or do not have a fine finishing, are terribly wrong. Well, they may be pardoned for such poor judgement, at least for one reason—they have not yet seen the amazing shoes from Giddins. What is even more exciting is that he never studied anything related to shoe-making. Find out how it all started as he talks to B&FT’s Inspiring Start-Ups.

Background

Gideon Denzo is the CEO of Giddins, a shoe manufacturing company. He is a product of the 2007 batch of Mfanstipim SHS, and proceeded to the University of Ghana where he studied Food Process Engineering and graduated in 2012. One wonders how come a person with such a background veered into shoe-making. Well read on.

While he was in the second year at university, his younger brother was also in his first year at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi; and his younger sister, who is his parents third born, was in the first year of senior high. So Gideon, as a responsible first-born, felt he should do something to help his parents financially so as to ease the burden on them. So he kept looking for an opportunity to do some side business alongside his studies.

Once, he paid his younger brother a visit in his school and he saw some nice shoes made by a local manufacturer. He bought five of them to sell on campus when he goes back to Accra. On arrival, all five shoes were bought by his friends. Then, he ordered for twenty and he sold them all out, too. That convinced him selling shoes would be a good business to support his parents.

But he needed money to order more. Fortunately for him, he had his school fees with him. At the time, the university authorities allowed for half-payment of fees at the beginning of the semester and the remaining half could be paid at the end. So he capitalized on that opportunity and used half of the money to order the shoes. Well, favour found him and so all the shoes he ordered were sold out.

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But Gideon had a bigger picture in mind. He wasn’t just satisfied with buying and selling shoes; he wanted to move up the ladder to become a shoe-maker because of a need he saw on campus. He observed that most guys on campus wore just one pair of shoes throughout the whole semester. So it prompted him to do shoes that were of high quality, yet affordable to the student population.

Taking steps

Gideon decided to go to Kumasi, on one of his vacations, to learn from the manufacturer he usually bought from the basics of shoe-making. But as an engineering student he wanted to see ways of making the shoes last longer than usual.

There, he remembered a lesson about conveyer-belt material and how strong it was and its ability to stand all weathers. With that knowledge, he used that material for the soles of his casual footwear collection. He put the idea into practice and it was an immediate hit on campus, as the students loved its durability.

Taking it higher

When he completed universit, he did his national service, after which he had an employment offer related to what he studied in the university. But four months on he had to call it quits in order to concentrate on the shoe business.

To be efficient in production, his manufacturing shop is located at Kumasi where it isrelatively easy to have access to raw materials and labour. Then he has a shop in Accra where he sells them.

Gideon now plays a more managerial role, directing the vision and mission of the company and ensuring smooth day-to-day running of the business.

Aside from the shoes, he has also introduced ladies’ handbags, purses, and even shirts.

One other social intervention he has introduced into the business is the kind of people he employs. He looks out for school drop-outs to train so they can have a means of income and livelihood.

He uses largely social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to market his products.

Vision

Giddins wants to be a leader in shoe-making in the country, whereby it will provide employment for underprivileged children.

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It also wants to enter the foreign market and establish an international presence.

 

Challenges

One challenge Gideon is constantly struggling with is financial constraints. The current financial system in the country, wherein interest rates are around 30 percent, has made it extremely difficult for small businesses to use that medium to grow and expand.

Again, a worrying situation he sometimes faces is the negative perception people harbour about Made in Ghana products. He recalls countless times when people have refused buying his shoes after he told them they are locally made.

“It is frustrating that our own people do not appreciate what we do here, but prefer to buy those made from abroad even if the local ones are of higher quality.”

Another serious challenge that confronts the industry as a whole is the unavailability of a leather manufacturing company in the country. This situation, he said, has made cost of production high as imported leather is expensive.

The impact of education

For Gideon, education has helped him in diverse ways, especially his background in engineering.

“If you are learning shoe-making, you have to learn the anatomy of shoes and their biomechanics, and I studied biomechanics in the university so that has made it easy to apply.”

Again, education, he said, has given him the needed confidence to approach people wherever he goes.

How government can support

One way that Gideon thinks government can support the shoe industry is by establishing a tannery/leather manufacturing company – either through a joint stock venture or through incentives that will move the private sector to make such investment. He said this is especially important as the lack of a leather manufacturing company in the country has increased their cost of production.

Advice to the youth

“I would encourage my fellow youth to be open-minded and search for opportunities that exist in the country and start with the small money they get. If they stay focused, with hard work and the needed support they will make it.”

Contact Gideon on 0243811094 or visit his shop at located at Accra, near UPSA

 

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