It is uncommon in our country to see women engage in certain forms of trade, as they have long been the preserve of men. One such area is the shoe-making business. Hardly ever will you see a woman shoemaker. But one lady, Edna, is changing the status-quo. Despite being a university student, she is earnestly pursuing a career in the shoe-making business. Read on as she narrates how it all started to the B&FT Inspiring Start-ups.
Edna Frimpong is the creative director of Ghanaian footwear brand Fash Slippers. She is a product of Adonten Senior High School at Aburi in the Eastern Region, where she studied General Arts. She is currently pursuing her degree in Public Relations at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) after earning a Diploma in Communication Studies.
Edna learned her skill from none other than her father, Maxwell Frimpong, who has long been in the shoe-making business. Right from infancy, her father would take her to the mini-factory with him. So, as she grew up her father started engaging her in the work by using her as his assistant. Through that, learning how to make shoes became part of her growth process.
But becoming a fulltime shoe-maker wasn’t really part of her goals in life – until the ‘almighty’ COVID-19 made her lose her job with an NGO.
She explained that the plan was to rebrand her father’s business, market it via social media to new clients, and then produce the sandals for sale.
“This business started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Losing my job pushed me, even though, I was already helping my dad. What motivated me was the fact that it was my father’s business and the need to take over as a first child in order to use it to cater for the family.
“The business was already in existence, I didn’t come up with it. I just leveraged the fact that my father is a professional shoemaker and I could learn the skill for the family’s sake and for myself. The only strategy I took was using social media platforms to reach greater audiences, which my father wasn’t doing,” she narrated.
Professionally, Edna has been in the business for three years – but recounted that she has been assisting her father since she was very young.
She said working alongside schooling didn’t come easy, but her passion and determination kept her moving. The business has since been her main source of income for paying her fees and supporting herself.
“Through this business, I pay my fees. It is our dream to build a sustainable business that will create jobs in the local Ghanaian economy by contributing immensely to growth of the African continent while producing comfortable footwear,” she added.
Fash Slippers is a hand-made leather brand in Ghana, focused on making quality, comfortable and durable footwear for all clients. It produces sandals, slippers and shoes for both males and females.
Currently, the footwear startup is operating from a small shop that serves as both a factory and showroom. But Edna says the vision is bigger than this. She wants to get a bigger space that will give them enough room to expand with other leather works and create more employment opportunity for the youth.
“The vision is to become a bigger brand, through which we will own a bigger shop and deal in everything pertaining to leatherwork – and eventually train artisans who are ready to learn the skill in order to create employment. I believe this vision is feasible,” she said.
The major challenge Edna says is impacting her business negatively is lack of adequate capital to undertake the expansion work and also buy modern machines and equipment to produce well-finished footwear.
“Funding to expand the business is a challenge. Also, one thing is that finishing is not perfect when you don’t use the required machines. But if we have the machines, it will reduce most of the human effort or manpower, improve quality, speed-up working, and make the output nice and neat. So, we need machines to reduce the human effort. Having machines can improve productivity and help get a good finished product,” she said.
How government can support startups
Edna thinks government should take interest in creating an environment that encourages businesses to succeed in order to support start-ups. Its policies ought to reflect this.
“Already, the system is not favourable but we keep pushing. First of all, if government can’t support startups the best thing is to make the system favourable in terms of taxes and the rest. Anytime I go to the shop materials are on the increase, and it affects the work.”
Women’s economic empowerment
For Edna, having women break barriers, break the glass-ceiling and work hard is encouraging. She says she gets a lot encouraging comments from people who come to know she makes shoes, saying to keep up the good work and push the brand.
Advice for prospective entrepreneurs
Her main piece of advice for aspiring business owners is to identify an issue, find a solution to it, and maintain passion throughout the process.
She said although it might be challenging, if one is passionate about their work they will succeed.
“Additionally, always plan and have a goal in mind. Although it’s challenging, persevere and show enthusiasm for your work. That will sustain you during trying times,” she remarked.
Instagram: @fash_slippers, @shoemakergurl
Facebook: Fash Slippers