When she completed the university, she was greeted with the virtual sign post that welcomes all graduates— ‘NO JOBS’. But that didn’t deter a determined and ambitious young lady. She learned to do something new, and today, she is reaping the benefits of that decision. Read on as she shares her story with the B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups.
It all started as a hunt for personal or custom-made beauty products, as she found difficulty in getting a perfect brand for her skin type.
Mrs. Ama Owusu Akill, born and bred in Accra, had her secondary education at St. Johns Grammar Senior High School, Accra, and furthered to the University of Ghana for her tertiary education where she obtained a degree in Psychology in 2012. She followed up with national service at the Parliament of Ghana. After her national service, she was welcomed into the world of job hunting where her frantic search yielded no results.
However, being the “fashionista” that her peers knew her to be, Owusua figured that she could make money out of making beauty products. Fortunately for her, she already had some knowledge in making beauty soaps and lotions for her personal use for the kind of glow that she desired.
She decided then, to produce some and put on sale as people constantly approached her about what beauty products she was using.
“When I completed school, I was not really getting a job so I decided to do something for myself. I used to make beauty soap for myself at home. When I started using it and realised it was okay, and was not harsh on my skin, I started making some for sale. Then, I realised it was lucrative so I decided to take it serious.”
Neyak means business
Shortly after starting her business, she got married and later gave birth to her first child. Thinking childbirth was going to limit her, it rather opened another opportunity to expand her business exploits.
“When I gave birth to my first child, I realised that I was spending so much on soap to do laundry, because when you have a new born, you wash virtually every single day, and investing most of my money in soap was not helping. So I decided to learn how to make laundry soap so I could cut cost.”
Ama then took up some courses to enhance her knowledge and skills. She contacted a friend who runs a soap making school in the United States to take her through an online training.
After that, she also enrolled in a soap making class in Accra, where she acquired a certificate for the skill.
The training proved to be beneficial as all her family and friends who used her maiden laundry product all gave positive reviews. There and then, she started producing in commercial quantities, taking up the name Neyak Cosmetics.
The business now
The business has become very successful. For someone who started producing for family and friends, with just a single product, she now can be said to own a cosmetic factory.
Her products line includes Neyak Laundry Soap, Neyak Lotion (for different skin types), and Neyak Facial Cleanser and Herbal Soap for the treatment of acne and other skin conditions.
Neyak Cosmetics has moved from supplying to family and friends to supplying to shops and individuals in other regions.
Her quality products have earned her a name among her friends and clients alike— ‘skincare pro’. She doesn’t just sell the products to clients, she asks questions to diagnose their problem before prescribing the appropriate product.
Another unique feature of Neyak Cosmetics the combination of both the soaps and lotions to achieve optimum results.
“With just soap, you may not be able to achieve what you really want, unless you use it for a very long period. And so, you need the cream to make it faster, and that is why I found it prudent to combine the two because as women, we cannot use just bathing soap, we need lotions to nourish the skin.”
“I want my brand to grow nationwide for now and become a household name, knowing that once it is well known in Ghana and some parts of Africa, extending it to different continents will not be a problem.”
The main means of marketing products from Neyak Cosmetics, Ama says, is through recommendations from people who have used the products.
Another mode of advertising is through social media. She uses platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchats to advertise her products and meet new clients as well.
As a start-up business based in Accra, space has been a major challenge to Neyak Cosmetics. Ama Owusua stated that it is extremely difficult to find suitable space in the capital, and when one does, the exorbitant rent charges become another hurdle.
“Shops that are up for rent are extremely expensive and are sometimes not suitable for the type of business I do. And when you decide to get a container too, there is no place to put it.”
She has in the meantime, resorted to courier services to reach clients within Accra, and buses for those outside Accra.
Another challenge Ama mentioned is difficulty in introducing new products to people who are used to using other competing brands.
“Ghanaians like sticking to one brand, and it becomes difficult to introduce new products to them. In this case, you end up giving out a lot of samples to prove your point, and it becomes very costly.”
Imitation is also another challenge in the industry where she finds herself. “Most people come in as trainees or employees but will end up stealing your ideas and setting up their own businesses to compete with yours, and this is very unfair. There is not protection for us,” she lamented.
How relevant is economic empowerment of women?
“It is very essential because aside the few office jobs available, most of the informal businesses are handled, managed, or created by women. So if government could focus more on empowering women in those areas—by organising training sessions and giving them some capital to repay later, it would help. Because most people have ideas and wish that they have money to pursue them but are unable to due to lack of funds.”
How education has helped
“because of the little knowledge I have about IT and research, I am always able to go on the internet and search for information. Unfortunately, these days, if you are unable to use the internet well, you cannot improve.
With education and the internet, you are able to find new ideas. For instance, when you make soap and it does not come out well, you can find out new ways to transform it into something else that is useful.”
Advice to the youth
Ama Owusua is advising the youths to keep their heads up and encouraging them to look elsewhere when they are not getting jobs in the formal sector.
Contact Neyak Cosmetics on: 054 038 4380