How to Fire Up Entrepreneurship with One Match: The Case of enpact’s Founder Scholarship Program in Ghana

By Ernest Armah
Article How to Fire Up Entrepreneurship with One Match: The Case of enpact’s Founder Scholarship Program in Ghana

2020 saw the pilot of enpact’s first founder scholarship program in Sub-Saharan Africa. The interest was enormous: We received over 150 applications. Following a thorough screening and evaluation of applications, four Ghanaian business founders were selected. The founder scholarship program offered financial and technical support on the ground during the four months from August to November 2020.

The aim was to give these founders relief from financial distress and offer them the peace of mind to move their businesses forward. The total sum of 24,000 euros was transferred to participants, who, additionally, received training in the areas of investment readiness, digital marketing, financial management, and tax compliance. The program also provided mentoring opportunities in one-on-one sessions with subject experts.

The beneficiaries

Prior to joining the program, Victoria Agbai, the founder of Bubune Skincare was in dire need of funds to expand the portfolio of her skincare products. She also had to obtain the necessary certifications from authorities. Victoria went into the skincare business due to her own allergic reactions to other skincare products. Her determination to get formulas right for sensitive skin types like hers and persons with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis is very personal. Her journey meant constant experimentation. After several rounds of testing and feedback from customers, the next step - production in considerable quantities and going to the market - is tough.

“One of our biggest challenges is that, while a lot of the raw materials we use are found on the African continent, they are refined and processed in other countries and sold at very high prices. We face logistical challenges trying to buy Moroccan argan oil from Morocco and thus decide to rather buy it from Europe, where we are able to leverage economies of scale by teaming up with other businesses who are already buying from Europe - hence driving down the cost of shipping. Some of the challenges that Ghanaian entrepreneurs face include extremely high interest rates on bank loans that make access to capital almost impossible, the undeveloped venture capital market in the region and the inefficient bureaucracy that exists in most African countries.”, she says.

However, through the founder scholarship program, Victoria successfully obtained the approval from the Ghana Foods and Drugs Authority (FDA) for a new range of skincare products. She also purchased soap molds from the USA and two lotion filling machines and is now exporting to other countries. She is looking forward to creating a global brand that will make an impact on the lives of Ghanaian women who produce shea butter. In her own words, it is programs like the Founder Scholarship Program that make dreams possible.

Sylvester Kofi Boahen is the Founder and CEO of Kofi comes from a family of traders and business owners but what really sparked his advance into entrepreneurship was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” bestseller. Together with his co-founders and other team members, Kofi is on a mission to diversify Africa’s exports with a strong focus on non-traditional exports.

One particular statistic unleashed Kofi’s ambition: In 2018, Africa with its population of 1.2 billion had exports worth about US$500 billion, whilst Germany, a country with less than a tenth of Africa’s population, exported nearly three times as much. Essentially, The African Exporter is aiming to build the Alibaba of Africa.

However, the intractable problems of capital access and lack of enabling policies nearly rendered Kofi’s dream forlorn. In his own words, “my challenge had to do with raising seed funding within the country. There is no recognizable community of angel investors, thus, one has to resort to affluent friends and acquaintances. For a tech startup, not getting access to seed funding can be detrimental to the success of your business.”

Through the founder scholarship program, Kofi is now making good progress towards the realization of his dream. He has hired four additional employees, became an affiliate member of the Global Shea Alliance and is on target to achieving a monthly revenue of US$5000. Here is what he had to say about the program:

“The support from enpact was very timely. The combination of funds, expert advice from the roundtables, coupled with peer-to-peer mentoring within the ecosystem, has been incredibly valuable in our entrepreneurial journey.”

The experience of Alex Calvin Gbetie, the co-founder of Profish, is equally profound. Alex grew up in Ivory Coast, a neighboring country to the west of Ghana. Profish leverages technology to offer local market access to the export market from cold logistics to packaging and traceability. In 2020, the strategic objectives of Profish were to expand to other regions of Ghana, map out fish stocks and periodical prices, nurture cordial relations in the fisheries industry, and to build the largest distribution network in order to become the best and first choice for seafood needs.

Although Alex and his team needed funding to purchase more logistics, they were keener on the technical support component. This entailed an ongoing coverage of the required consultancy services which were very useful for them - hence they wished it had continued over a longer period of time.

Alex explained that although his business has difficulty accessing funds and investments, most of the “workshop events and training programs they have participated in are not practical.” They need consultants to develop their business because they cannot afford high-skill professionals.

Thus, the enpact roundtable and one-on-one sessions were very helpful. In four months, Profish has purchased two big ice-chests for storing fish products at sales events, acquired 44 new clients, generated a revenue of GHS 26,700 (4,657 euros) purchased sale stands at two exhibitions and sales events, and has added 15 smallholder fish farmers to their list of suppliers.

“A lot of people die with their ideas because of fear. fear limits our minds. try and take the first step to start whatever it is.”, says David Foli, Founder and CEO of Agromyx. David embarked on a mission to avert the perennial crisis of food waste by offering preservation systems which sustains the longevity of farm products whilst maintaining their nutritional properties and freshness.

Agromyx had already gained traction in the market. Their challenge was meeting their customers’ demands: the market demand for their products exceeded what they could supply. To meet the increasing demand, they needed more capital. Besides that, there is a bigger ambition driving David. He hopes to work directly with hundreds of millions of African smallholder farmers to tackle the problem of food waste and make food preservation systems in Ghana as robust as possible to battle starvation, disease, poverty, malnutrition, etc. Overall, he wants to stimulate agricultural businesses to create jobs and boost the continent’s economy and improve its balance sheet.

Through the founder scholarship program, Agromyx was able to finance 160 small holder farmers affected by COVID-19.

Ernest Armah is the Country Manager of enpact Ghana.

This article is a contribution to the 2nd edition of the enpact Yearbook - a work of love by our partners at enpact curated by their team, entrepreneurs, mentors, experts and the global start-up community.

You can download the full yearbook here

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