Curiosity birthed my business …as told by Fatima Zahra

Fatima Zahra Shardow, Zeephat Trading

Curiosity, they say killed the cat. But this time, it didn’t kill. Rather, it gave a means of livelihood to young Fatima, the CEO of Zeephat Trading. In her quest, as a member of a mentorship group to help a number of girls in her community learn a skill to support themselves, the tables rather turned, making her the learner and subsequently, birthing her business. Read her story as she shares with the B&FT’s Inspiring Startups.

Fatima Zahra Shardow grew up in Accra New Town, a suburb of the capital city—Accra. She is a product of the Labone Senior High School where she studied General Arts. From there, she furthered her education at the Ghana Institute of Journalism to obtain both a Diploma in Communication Studies and a Degree in Public Relation.

After her graduation in 2014, she got a job at a customer care management company in Accra, but unfortunately lost it, just a year after when the company folded up, rendering her jobless.

Desire to help brings blessings

While still thinking about what to do, she decided to join an NGO that provides guidance and development training mainly to young ones in Zongo communities as a way of helping to empower them.

The NGO at the time, sought the services of people who could train the ladies in soap making, ice-cream, cakes, yoghurt making, among others.

During the training, Fatima, out of curiosity, decided to be one of the trainees and so joined the soap making class, even though she was among the organisers of the programme. After, being taken through the processes, she was excited by what she learned and that began her entrepreneurial journey.

She made samples of the soaps and showed it to some close family and friends to give her feedback on how to improve it. When the ratings were positive, she started producing in commercial quantities. She registered her business with the name Zeephat Trading and started branding her products to make it more attractive.

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“After the class, I wanted to make samples to use myself, and to give other people to also use to see what I had gone to learn, and I realised people liked it.

People started requesting for the soap for wedding favours- what in our Muslim communities, we call “rabo”, and I said to myself: “Why not do something about it?” So I strategized to take the business up, and now I am here.”

Currently, the company produces hand and dish-washing soap, bleach, hand sanitizer, and will be introducing a line of other cleaning products including herbal formulated hand-wash, and floor-cleaning liquids very soon.

Her products have won the hearts of many, as she supplies many loyal customers in Accra and other places.

Vision

Zeephat Trading has a very huge vision. Fatima says she wants to establish presence of her products in all other regions across the country and beyond in the next few years. She also wants to provide a one-stop shop for cleaning products for clients.

Challenges

As a young brand, a major challenge the company is faced with is the public’s attitude towards new products.

“Our attitudes towards accepting new brands is not encouraging, and that is one very disturbing challenge that we want to overcome as a company. So I urge anyone who gets to see a new brand not to quickly dismiss it as synthetic, but to try it out and appreciate the effort that went into making it.”

Another challenge, the Fatima said, is funding. “If you are a start-up, you are trying to beat the cost of existing products or services, which means your product has to even be lesser than those that already exist. Also because you do not want to produce inferior, you buy quality raw materials, and that drains financially.”

How education has helped

When asked how education has contributed to the success of her business, Fatimah mentioned a number of benefits including research, budgeting, communication, among others.

“My advertising and marketing background has helped me in this business regarding how I present my products. Because of this, when I put my brand on the shelve with other locally made brands, I see that there is some level of uniqueness in mine,” Fatima proudly added.

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Through her education, she also learned that quality sells. For this reason, she doesn’t joke with quality issues at all.

“There are a lot of cleaning products around which are locally made. But the difference is the quality we offer. I know that this is what will attract first-time users to keep to your brand. So for us at Zeephat, we take quality very seriously.

Regarding marketing, Fatima is keenly aware of the advantages social media provides for her business. She has accounts on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram where she markets her products.

Her view on economic empowerment of women

“Women’s economic empowerment is really relevant, considering the contribution of women in the informal sector, for example. All over Ghana, women are those steering the economic affairs in all the business centres. So, it is incumbent on government to help us and give us the power to do more to improve the economy,” she urged.

How government can support

Fatima said government can support women entrepreneurs by creating a start-up fund specially for them where support can be extended to those who have brilliant business ideas.

Additionally, she called on government institutions to patronises locally made goods instead of importing, as a way of supporting local businesses to thrive in the economy.

Advice to the youth

“The youth should try and make something out of our curiosity and passion, no matter how comfortable you are because in any situation, you will either gain money, or experience and both of them will help you grow.

Another thing is fear has been the one thing that has buried most ideas, and so I urge all to come out of their fears and try to do anything that comes to mind and it will survive.”

Contact: 050 020 6683

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