Businesses all over the world have been impacted negatively by the coronavirus. For some businesses, waiting for the wounds created by the virus to totally heal before resuming operations will rather lead to their collapse. So, some of them, including startups, have started finding opportunities in the challenges of the pandemic. In this week’s B&FT Inspiring Startups, article, we speak with the CEO of Maus Kreations to tell us how his business is adapting to the new normal. Have a read.
Maurice Kweku Zordeh was born and bred in Tema – the industrial hub of Ghana. He is a product of the Adisadel College where he studied business. He holds a degree in Human Resource Management from the Central University College. After his one-year mandatory national service, he waited for almost two years before landing a job with one of the telecommunication service providers in the country.
From infancy, Maurice says, he loved arts, painting and designs. So even before he went to the senior high school, he wanted to study visual arts but he didn’t get the support of his family, as they held the perception that it wasn’t a programme for serious-minded students. But that interest still lingered in his heart when he grew up. So while still employed, he kept on thinking what extra income he could make from his long-time hobby, arts.
An opportunity comes
While he was still contemplating on what to do, he decided to consult his cousin, who is a graphic designer to take him through some basic photoshop tutorials and he watched videos on YouTube to perfect. He started exploring the idea of printing pictures on canvas, as that is not very common in the country. With the training from his cousin and the lessons on YouTube, he did his first piece of work on a canvas and showed it to a former roommate who expressed interest and bought it.
Then, he did another print and another friend bought it. The next one was also bought by a colleague at work. It went on and on for eleven months and at this point, Maurice was convinced it will be a good business to focus attention on. So, he resigned from his employment to pursue his new career fulltime.
Maus Kreations begins business
After resigning from the telecommunications company, Maurice opened Maus Kreations in January 2018. But it was not an easy decision for Maurice to make, as his job with his former employers wouldn’t be turned down by a fresh graduate.
Plus, he knew his family members wouldn’t buy into resigning from a permanent employment to start something entirely new with an uncertain future. So, initially, he didn’t tell his mother and siblings he had resigned. He told them he is on a long leave and wants to use the time to work on some orders from clients. Later, he told them that he had resigned; but they didn’t react negatively because they realised the business wasn’t that bad.
The business has been well-received by clients as he continues to get a lot of referrals each week. Averagely, on a very good week, he gets not less than 15 orders.
In the next five years, Maus Kreations wants to gain foot in the international market where he would be able to participate in art exhibitions around the world and project his works internationally.
One challenge that Maurice had to contend with is to get people to understand the concept of the canvas prints as it quite new. So, initially, the acceptance level was low.
Also, since the canvas material is imported, paying import duties and other related taxes, in addition to the printing increase his cost of production.
How education has helped him
Maurice says one good thing that ever happened to him was to study business in the secondary school and the university. He says it has helped him know how to professionally manage his business. Through education, he has become proficient in the use of technology to organise his accounting and other records. Again, he considers his time in the corporate world as another learning experience that really shaped him. It opened his eyes to appreciate the value of working with time and keeping customers satisfied. For him, to disappoint a client is something out of his vocabulary.
The impact of coronavirus
Just as every other business, the coronavirus pandemic has affected Maurice’s business too. Due to the general economic slowdown, resulting in income declines, consumption has reduced drastically. This has also resulted in decline in patronage of his business as people would only buy a canvas picture when they have extra money to spend.
How he has turned the challenge into an opportunity
For Maurice, even though there is general economic hardship, people would still want to see nice images of themselves or their loved ones on the wall. In fact, he says, it is even one way of putting smiles on people’s face in these hard times. So rather than halt production and wait for, God-knows-when, better times, he has devised a new strategy. He has added customised face masks to the canvas work where each client who would make an order gets a free mask made with his identity on it. That way, he maintains, clients will still be interested in his products as they will be baited by the free customised nose mask.
The most important thing for businesses, Maurice says, is to have an enabling environment created by government. Things like registering your business, getting permits, filing of taxes, among others should be simplified so that it doesn’t frustrate businesses when they want to do the right thing.
Advise for entrepreneurs
“Young entrepreneurs must put in everything they have if their businesses will succeed. Time is of the very essence. Once you put in time, you will reap the benefits. So I encourage everyone to put more time into their businesses.
Again, you should be ready to step out of your comfort zone to try something new. Don’t be afraid that when you quit your job to start your own dream, you are going to fail. Be hungry for success and make sure you are pushing harder.”