Submitted by: Charis Jung
As an Entrepreneurship & Innovation Intern, my work with YCI involves teaching entrepreneurship workshops and organizing the Micro-Enterprise Conference, a culminating event for the workshop participants. In line with YCI’s focus on improving youth livelihood, these workshops are offered to young entrepreneurs in the Takoradi-Sekondi region who are passionate about pursuing their business ideas, or are already operating their own businesses. The start-ups vary in products and services, ranging from hair stylists and fashion designers to caterers and maize/rice vendors. The entrepreneurs also have different levels of business education with many of them having little or no prior business training.
In Ghana, the informal sector is a large contributor to new employment opportunities, and it represents a growing segment of the workforce in Africa. Over 90% of businesses in Ghana are small and a medium-sized enterprise, which means many people make a living for themselves through their family businesses or start-ups. Both the active informal sector and the widespread SMEs are evident in Ghana, where you can witness stores, street vendors, hawkers, and small family shops in neighbourhoods. The reason for focusing so much on youth is because 26 to 35 year-olds own over 30% of Ghana’s SMEs. In other words, they are the driving force of the economy. These are the same people who drive innovation, adapt quickly to changes and work with passion.
I’ve now completed three out of four modules for the Entrepreneurship Workshops, and it’s been a humbling experience. It’s been rewarding for me to facilitate these workshops, covering introductory business concepts that will hopefully give the participants that extra edge to steer them towards success in the marketplace. It’s remarkable how simple lessons on branding or cost and pricing strategies can make a large difference for these young men and women, as they find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors in their respective industries.
I’m all the more excited because I’ve witnessed how this program has made a difference for some entrepreneurs who participated in last year’s pilot program. For instance, Joseph who is a furniture-maker at By Grace Furniture went from working with “rough plans” for the past eight years to applying strategic goal-setting this year. The workshop motivated Joseph to start building his own furniture showroom, design a large signage/banner for his storefront, and print additional business cards for effective networking. The showroom had only been an idea prior to the workshops, but the sessions pushed him to put things into action. “I learned the importance of advertising through different methods, like the signage, and complementary [business] cards. Now, I print pictures of my furniture on calendars and distribute them to companies and banks,” Joseph told me enthusiastically during our interview. It was evident that Joseph had been deeply impacted, and I’ll continue to work with the anticipation that we see more stories like his in the near future.
Charis Jung, Youth Entrepreneurship & Innovation Intern, Ghana