Inspiring Start-ups: ‘I want to change the mindset of the youth’ …as told by Diana Mensah

Only changes in mindsets can extend the frontiers of the possible, said Winston Churchill, a former British Prime Minister. And this is why Diana, a young woman in the Volta Region of Ghana is changing the mindset of the youth about job seeking to job creation. She has established an NGO that trains and educate people to learn a new trade or craft so that they do not rely on government for jobs. Find out how she is doing it as she shares her story with the B&FT Inspiring Start-ups.

Diana Mensah, a mother of four and married to Mr. Daniel Mensah was born in Accra, the capital of Ghana but grew up in Keta in the Volta Region. She is a past student of the Keta Senior High School where she was the Girls’ School Prefect for the 1998-year group. From there, she gained admission to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and graduated with a degree in Biological Science in 2004.

Beginning of her entrepreneurial journey

After her national service with the same university, she tried pursuing her second degree but due to some circumstances beyond her control, she couldn’t finish it. Sitting idle has never been an option for Diana. So, with the knowledge she acquired in yoghurt production in her biology class while in school, she decided to start a business producing fresh yoghurt.

Later, she learned bead making and other crafts and added it to the yoghurt production. After sometime, she shifted the focus from production only to training people. Some former school colleagues, particularly the ladies who after raising a family and could not pursue their corporate careers further, enrolled in the training.

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This impressed and convinced her that more people will be interested in the training so she had to get certification, which involved writing examination at the National Vocational and Technical Institute in Accra to qualify her for training others.

In no time, after she acquired the certification, people started inviting her for programmes to inspire others. For Diana, having a qualification in whatever field she finds herself is very important to her. So currently, she is studying to acquire a second degree in entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) to equip her with the requisite entrepreneurial knowledge.

Transforming into a social enterprise

Not only is Diana interested in offering training for money, she is also passionate about the underprivileged and underserved in the society. For this reason, she registered her business as an NGO with the name Centre for Skill and Entrepreneurial Development. Last year, she went to the Ho Prison to train the inmates in bead making, weaving, and other kinds of trade.

Besides that, poor people in her community, like orphans, widows, teen mothers, school dropouts, among others, and who have the interest to learn a trade or craft are offered free training in her institute.

The five modules

The Centre for Skill and Entrepreneurial Development operates with four modules. First, is the Fashion and Fashion accessories. The bead, dress, and hats making all fall under this module.

Then, the Events and Decoration Module which trains people in how to do decorations for events. The school also has Cosmetic and Beauty Module where people are trained in soap making, body cream, wig cap, among others.

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Fourth, the Food Processing Module in which people are trained to do the yoghurts, processing and packaging of other foods.

And finally, is the Business Development Module which also builds the capacity of budding entrepreneurs to turn their business ideas into viable businesses.

One noteworthy thing about Diana’s institute is that, apart from people coming to the institute for training, she does outreach programmes, and workshops in other institutions in order to reach more people.

Her vision

Diana wants to change the mindset in many, especially, the youth to see job creation as the best alternative to job seeking.

“It is believed so much that when you finish the university, the only option for you is to gain employment in established organisations. But I want to defy that odd and make people understand that there are other means of creating employment for yourself and others.

I want to see an enterprising youth and my target is to start the education from the basic level so that as they climb up the ladder, they will not be limited in life as to what they can do.”

Challenges

Diana was not spared the usual opposition that well-meaning family members stage against people who they perceive brilliant to take a job in a reputable organization other than venturing into entrepreneurship.

Her family didn’t like the idea that she wanted to set up her own business which they felt wasn’t any good idea, considering she was a graduate and could get a job with some company and be paid well.

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Financial challenges cannot also be left out of her troubles. Because the business is not into making profits, she sometimes finds it difficult to raise the funds needed for its smooth running. So, she is appealing to donors to support her projects.

Again, another thing she finds a challenge is the mentality of the youth—the very reason that drove her into this enterprise. Most, young people, she says, are interested in get-rich-quick and so show no or less interest in learning a trade.

How education has helped

Education, Diana says, has had enormous benefit for her. It has given her the knowledge she needs to run her business. It has helped her in her marketing and branding. It has built her confidence level. Making it easy for her to approach people.

How important is empowering women economically?

“When a woman is empowered, she becomes independent and some social problems like teenage pregnancy will not exist anymore, because, she wouldn’t sacrifice her career for pregnancy at a young age. So, I think economically empowered women is very good for the country.”

How government can support?

For Diana, government must ensure that its support schemes and interventions targeted at the poor and underprivileged should get to those whom they are intended for, as the lack of monitoring, sometimes, gets the money in wrong pockets.

Advice

Diana says the youth coming up should demonstrate seriousness in whatever they do. They should explore their talents and not rely solely on government to provide them with jobs after school.

Contact: 020 807 5260

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