Inspiring Startups: Asomaniwaa Owusu-Ansah

…providing care to cancer patients turned business

Today, our feature takes a look at what one young lady is doing in the health sector. Asomaniwaa is a young pharmacist turned entrepreneur. Her entrepreneurial inclinations began when she started working in a cancer unit and realised that nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other medical caregivers can contract cancer just through administering care to the patients. This scary thought gave her a business idea. Read on as she narrates how it all began with your favourite column in the B&FT—Inspirng Startups.

Background

Asomaniwaa was born in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region. Her family later moved to Koforidua, Eastern Region, while she was still in basic school. The young native of Obo-Kwahu had to move yet again, this time to the nation’s capital—Accra—for her Senior High School education. An alumnus of the Seven Great Princes Academy, Asomaniwaa proceeded to the Central University in 2008, from where she graduated in 2012 with a degree in Pharmacy.

While in school she did her internship with various health centres. It was during one of those times that her interest in critical care began. In one of the hospitals where she did her internship, she was tasked with the work of giving drugs to HIV patients who also had cancer.

Then, after completing the university, she did her national service at the Ridge Hospital in Accra where she worked with the Anti-retroviral unit; again charged with the responsibility of administering care to HIV patients.

Asomaniwaa said most of the drugs given to HIV patients are also cancer drugs, explaining her interest in cancer care.

Moving on after national service, she was employed by Adepa Pharmacy where she worked for a few years before going to Sweden Ghana Medical Centre, which has a cancer unit.

There, she was trained on how to take care of cancer patients and learned how caretakers can also protect themselves from some of the drugs used by patients, which are rather harmful to people who do not have cancer.

This sparked her interest to take an online course in oncology, so she could learn more about cancer, and especially how caretakers can protect themselves.

The course not only informed her, but also gave her a business idea!

The beginning of Erith Pharmaceutical and Health Service Ltd.

Asomaniwaa saw business in providing care for cancer patients and caretakers with the kind of protective clothing they need.

She did some reading and research about it online, and then decided to move into supplying some of them to various hospitals.

So, in 2015, she set up Erith Pharmaceutical and Health Service Ltd. and began importing some of the protective gear—gowns (not a wedding gown. though), slippers, gloves and other key protective gear which are not produced in the country.

But over time she ran out of capital. Fortunately for her though, she applied to the Tony Elumelu Foundation for support and was assisted with funds which have since revived her business.

Asomaniwaa dressing a cancer care giver with protective gear

Currently, she supplies protective gear to Sweden Ghana Medical Centre, the Koforidua Central Hospital and Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.  Interest has also been shown by some traditional cancer-curing units in the country.

Vision

Asomaniwaa is not limiting herself to only supplying protective gear. She wants to move into production. Rather than import all the gear, she has a vision of producing those that can easily be made in Ghana.

Again, she wants to broaden the vision by making it a social enterprise whereby she would partner some NGOs to make cancer drugs available and affordable to the poor and people in rural areas.

Then she wants to use her health centre to spread the word about cancer-awareness.

Challenges

As noted earlier, Asomaniwaa has a vision of producing in the country. But her main constraint in this area is inability to find the right kind of materials for production.

Once, she tried a local manufacturer to produce some of the gear for her – but the end result didn’t turn out well as she didn’t get a product that really matched the standard of what she needed – and she ran into a lot of debt as a result.

So, for now, she has kept to importing the products until she sees the right manufacturer.

Marketing

Of course, social media will be her main strategy for marketing, considering its reach and affordability. She has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like, where she markets her products.

The role of education

Asomaniwaa says education has played a very big role in her entrepreneurial journey. Because the kind of business she is doing is directly linked to what she studied, she is adept at what she does and makes sure she provides her products and service with the highest quality and standard in her profession.

How government can help

She thinks government can help entrepreneurs by setting the stage for them to thrive through some policy initiatives that will make doing business easy.

Advice to the youth

Asomaniwaa believes strongly that whatever one puts their mind to they can achieve, no matter what obstacles are in the way. So, she tells the youth not to give up in the pursuits of their dreams that solve problems and which can later become a viable business.

Contact Asomaniwaa on 0242707880