I am a brave girl in a competitive world.
I dream during the day and I stay up working all night.
I am competing against many.
I am winning against a few.
I am losing against the untold.
The journey has been rough but the rewards are consoling.
Have I lost or found myself in this quest?
A creative small town girl.
Who has created a monster.
I am an Entrepreneur with a “usual” Outburst.
Based on my interaction with other entrepreneurs here in Ghana, it seems like we are facing more or less the same challenges which qualifies the world usual.
27th July 2015 – Series 1
Is it just me, or does every entrepreneur sometimes wake up angry because they are disappointed with the input of their workers, they feel they could do better, or they simply think maybe it will be much easier to find a 9 to 5 where you leave your work stress at your desk when you log off your computer and move on.
It particular breaks my heart when the staff I depend on disappoint me then in the same moment, I pinch myself and say who am I kidding? What was I thinking? I am just a stepping-stone for them. Its time to take full ownership and get things in the right place.
After all, my rewards are in recognition of my hard work.
When you own your own business, you are 100% responsible for your success rate. You cannot depend on other people.
Your workers will never be as 100% interested as you are.
To them it’s a 9 to 5, it pays their bills, it puts food on their tables.
To you it’s the ability for you to afford a life.
It becomes something you are solely depended on.
You want to build something your generation and the future generation will talk about even when you are gone.
You find that you are easily:
Taking calls at all times of the day and night anywhere in the middle of anything
Working on your birthday
Checking your work emails in the middle of the night even when your eyes are at its heaviest
So how do you find that balance???
27th August 2015 – Series 2
In a recent interview with Glitz Africa Magazine, their issue on Confidence, I was asked 4 simple questions and this is what I had to say!
12th September 2015 – Series 3
Hmmm I just couldn’t wait for a Throw Back Thursday.
We went for a venue site survey for a Swedish Company and it just brought back many memories of when I was a staff of Ericsson.
Despite the story of The Rotten Bananas I must say the experience was one I won’t trade for anything.
My 2 years at Ericsson started with a love story, a painful breakup, a comforting job role, super fantastic bosses (Ålan and Andreas), superb colleagues, awesome exposure but I guess the ultimate fulfilment was still not there.
Is it here now?
Have you ever been in a situation where the best thing you could do is the hardest thing you have ever done? That’s the story of my life. Mixed Feelings, all the time!
I guess the background to this picture says it all …. Life
I made the decision to leave not because I hated having to work for someone else, waking up to their time table, building their dream, etc… I was a diligent worker. I hardly complained. Why? Because I have always believed in working diligently and appreciating my blessings.
But I would still rather be known as Debra-Jane who owns that successful company than Debra-Jane who works for that successful company even though I loved earning what I earned then than now at their cost.
I respect people who work 9-5 for big companies but I won’t even lie, I respect entrepreneurs much much more.
Your passion and struggle is admirable. If the 9-5 people talk about you, look down on you, or think they know better than you, kindly do yourself a favour. Laugh extremely loud in their face. You have a testimony! It is hard but achieveable.
The person who owns the company they are working so hard for could be you. You are probably now that person then.
Sorry if some people feel I am throwing shade. Step into the sun if you feel I just threw shade at you but know this is not about you.
It’s just a little encouragement to the mixed feelings.
Believe you can do it, and work extra hard and you will do it.
Now let your weekend officially begin 🙂
6th April 2016 – Series 4
It Is Expensive Vrs I Cant Afford It.
There is no illusions that people will stop thinking like this any time soon, but I still want to throw this out there… “expensive” is a relative term.
People say something is “expensive” when what they really mean is “I can’t afford it.”
Just because they can’t pay for something at that very moment doesn’t necessarily mean something is expensive or overpriced. It just means they don’t have the money at that time to spend on the subjected item. Definitely not the same thing.
Challenge yourself to rethink your approach when it comes to your choice of words. It Is Expensive Vrs I Cant Afford It.
It is OK not to be able to afford something. It is not OK to brand it as expensive.
30th April 2016 – Series 5
I got an email from the Alumni Office at Coventry University where I did both my first degree and master’s degree that they would like me to be a guest speaker at an event they will be hosting in Ghana for their alumni. Being the youngest and freshest in entrepreneurship alongside the other great 3 guest speakers for the night, the Vice Chancellor and CEO of Coventry University, the President of the Ghana Technology University College and the Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities, I shivered. I certainly felt under qualified for the role and didn’t meet that honor.
I wrote my speech the morning of the event and someone close to me said don’t be nervous, focus on what you are saying. That is what people will hear and remember. What you said!
The speech wasn’t what was attacking my nerves. Being made an MC for an event for the first time with less than 24 hours before the event made me nervous. I have never been an event MC before! And looking at the caliber of the audience would make me want to give an excuse and not show up. But I did. I did it all. I was the MC for the entire night, the last guest speaker, and the person who got a big round of applause. I left the event tonight with a happy heart filled with praise to God that He yet again favored me. I impressed my audience and that gave birth to wonderful opportunities for me with Coventry University.
When I learnt that Coventry University is promoting transformational entrepreneurship on the African continent through education, research and practice-based learning to boost our socio-economic development, it made me proud. That made me a proud Alumni who happens to be an Entrepreneur.
When I was younger, I thought life was designed in a perfect way. Life is mapped out by the best architect, God, and all you had to do is stroll along with just a little input. After school, you go to university. After university, you are guaranteed a job. Your first job will be the beginning of a great career walking up the ladder, year after year, experience after experience. You retire with a lot of money saved up, you spend your days sipping cocktails and watching the birds fly in the sky.
Then I hit 27. Out of the job I hated going to anyway, looking for that promised great career in the corporate world. During that job search, I said to myself, there is no way I can sit at home. The bills need to be paid, I need to eat. Unfortunately, in Ghana, there is no benefit in place by the government to support people out of work.
In waiting, I decided to create a job for myself to keep me going. At the time, it was supposed to be just a temporary fix until I landed a dream start to my career in a corporate world. Sometimes when there are no open doors of opportunity available to you, you create your own door! 3 years from then, I had to resign from that great job I found with a big global company which I thought was the answer to my prayers. After 2 years with that company, I didn’t see any growth in my career which is what you are made to think will happen.
This year, 2016, we celebrated our 6th Year Anniversary. Miraculously, I own that company and it is called Think Mahogany, which produces Events by Debra-Jane.
At the time of moving back to Ghana in 2009, I was already a 2-year old entrepreneur with two awards. A “Championing Champions” award which is a championing change award from the Milton Keynes Racial Equality Council, received in 2008, a year after I and co- founder Tina Latifah Jones started a HIV/AIDS Health and Social Care Charity Organization in the UK. My role with STaSS, formerly known as Shika Tamaa Support Service is in the areas of business development, marketing, communications and HIV/AIDS Prevention Outreach. The organisation is still fully functional in the UK and we have registered a branch in Ghana as well which we are yet to launch.
Our drive to start this organisation was based on research which showed a gap at the time, in the area of support for people infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. Majority of the subjected people at the time, were of Black African ethnicity. To be able to help “our” people, we decided to do something. The name Shika Tamaa Support Services was derived from southern Africa because then most of these Africans needing the support was from Southern Africa. That statistic changed with time, cutting into Western and Eastern Africa as well hence the name change to STaSS for short.
Current statistics in the UK show that almost half (48%) of all people accessing HIV care acquired their infection through heterosexual sex. Among heterosexuals, 60% of people were of Black African ethnicity, 24% White, 4% Black Caribbean, 3% other Black ethnicity, 2% Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi, and 2% of other Asian ethnicity.
My second award is the 2013 Efie-Ne-Fie GUBA Award. “Efie Ne Fie” dubbed the “home sweet home” or “the returnee” award recognizes someone who has taken the leap to return home (Ghana) and start up a successful enterprise. It seeks to reward those with creativity, ambition and perseverance to improve their industry in Ghana thus raising standards and creating opportunities.
Think Mahogany is a full-service events design and management company. We continue to evolve and deliver creative event solutions. Since I started in 2010, I have a current database of 400 plus clients, whose events we have done.
When I was in Coventry University, I didn’t think for a minute that I would become an Entrepreneur. It was during the era of Information Technology. IT was what the hype was about then. After 6th form, I took a year out as I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to study at University. I somewhat knew I wanted to do some business modules simply based on the fact that I liked the lifestyle of my friend’s parent who were business men and women. But I was not certain on just a Business Degree. During that year out, I worked for an IT company that supported IBM. Even though I was carrying out an admin role, I begun to develop an interest in Information Technology. Coventry University was one of the very few Universities not too far from home, Milton Keynes, in 2001 who offered a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Information Technology with International Business.
Even though I did not seek direct Entrepreneurial advice from my university, the university’s principles, have come along with me on my journey.
Honesty! The fundamental principle of my business is operating in a culture of honesty.
Integrity! Holding in high esteem the moral principles that have nurtured my growth.
Accountability! That sense of responsibility has groomed me in becoming liable for my actions.
I strongly attribute my intellectual development to what I learnt at University.
I have been able to apply the business modules to the business processes I have developed for and apply in my company. The IT modules have given me the knowledge I required to be able to create working systems that have enhanced my creativity, information sharing and collaboration amongst users.
I am principled, I am tech savvy and business smart. I am a product of Coventry University.
You can have a dream, you can be passionate, you can have the resources, but you need to have creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit. You need to be able to attract a market. You need innovation that can contribute to your community. You need to be willing to work hard. And you need to grow though skin to resist the challenges that you will face daily, to achieve success! You can’t be willing to give up.
Every challenge and obstacle you face as an entrepreneur, should rather fire you up to get better rather than diminish your spirit. You get better by being all of the above! You are going to get newer competition every day, with any aspects of your business and your season may change with the penetration of your new competition but work hard, stay remodeling so that even if the hype fades, you will still remain relevant.
It is a cycle, and that cycle is the strongest link to your accomplishments. That is simply my opinion as a business owner. But what gives you the will to run along the cycle is self-discipline. Very important! In that cycle, you need to think critically, you need to be original, you need to make sacrifices and decisions, you need to be able to respond to complex situations. You must be a leader, you must make a difference. Coventry University prepares such people.
To be a successful entrepreneur remains a learning process every day. Success is a decision of the heart and mind achievable through dedication and hard work.
Coventry University aimed at providing me with a high-quality education and learning experience. It groomed me to make significant contributions to my previous employers, my current business, this economy, this society. I have become a creative force in this rapidly evolving world. I have impacted many lives, and a few people would confess that I inspired them, to start their own businesses.
My favorite memory of Coventry University, is one of my life’s most treasured. I made good friends at Coventry University. Over a decade later, I am happy to say some of my closest friends are those that I made in Coventry University. Even though we are all continents apart, thanks to technology, we remain just as close. Even if I had nothing, my friends from Coventry and my degrees, make it all worth the while.
I now choose, to take it upon myself to help build a strong Alumnus in Ghana. I am willing to support FOCUS in Ghana (Africa) by echoing what the institution has to offer.
5th May 2016 – Series 6
This morning, I woke up to this piece by Abraham Laleye, Managing Director of Robins Begg Consulting Ltd. which I think is worth sharing.
The Deception of Absolute advantage
A donkey and a dog lived on the estate of a rich man. The donkey stayed in the shed and had lots of corn and oats to eat. The master used the animal to drag wood and sometimes, at night, to turn the mill. The dog on the other hand had it much easier. He was the master’s pet. He got to live in the house and received much of the master’s attention.
Look at that dog, the donkey thought to himself. He gets to play all day and sit in the master’s lap. He does nothing while I’m here breaking my back. Maybe if I started acting like that dog, the master would treat me the same way. I could live in the house, gain more of his affection, and do less work.
So the next day, the donkey rushed into the house, where the master was eating his lunch, and began jumping and wagging his tail like the dog. The donkey accidentally broke a leg off the table, sending plates and cups crashing to the floor. “What do you think you are doing you beast!” the master screamed.
Imitating the dog, the donkey then jumped on the master’s lap, breaking the master’s leg in the process! Get this beast out of here and have him shot dead, ordered the master. The donkey was buried some few minutes later.
Many companies and individuals have lost huge sums of money and assets by diversifying or investing in businesses that appear externally more attractive than their own businesses. According to Jim Collins, when diversifying, the questions should not just be “is there money to be made in this business? We also need to ask “Is that money for my kind of competitive configuration? It is one thing to have the ability to succeed in business; it another thing to be either number 1 or number 2 in your country or continent. Every industry has its ups and downs, good and bad times. Companies that weather the storm are those who posses the competitive advantage for the industry they operate in.
Jack Welch says, “If you do not have competitive advantage, don’t compete!” Warrant Buffet says, “If you don’t understand a business, don’t buy it no matter how financially promising the deal. Putting your money in a business you do not understand is speculation not investment.”
8th May 2016 – Series 7
I think my problem is, sometimes I trust my closest staff a bit too much. Forgetting they are also human.
What do you do when your staff start lying to you!
Honest, Trust and Loyalty
May 2016 – Series 8
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
Work hard enough to become the ones you once looked up to’s biggest competition.
Have a strong religious objection to just making it good with: Attention To Detail, Pursuing Excellence and Executing Perfection.
“The future does not wait for hesitant people. The more we achieve, the more we realise how much more we can achieve.”
― Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
March 2017 – Series 9
Today I take my hat off to all the female entrepreneurs and women in managerial and leadership roles. Many people won’t like you but pretend they do. They don’t like you simply because they don’t know you. They don’t have half the balls that you have so they can’t comprehend your existence so they don’t like you. They talk down at you and talk ignorantly about you not because they don’t like you, but simply because the capacity of their thinking is very limited and the sad thing is they don’t know that and many never will. The comic is they think they know it all. So dear great woman, be glad to hear that your hard work is what paves the way for the same people who don’t like you.
It’s not an epic joy ride but you put the vision first and get the mission in motion. You do it not because it is easy but because it is damn hard. And the wonderful thing about it is, to you, it’s not even hard. It’s a must do! And this might make you smile, even great men lose their ego and secretly think the world of you.
Happy International Women’s Day
March 2017 – Series 10
I very often remember this incidence and till date it still blows my mind.
A couple of years ago, I was sat at @Goldhud ‘s stand at @AccraGoodsMarket when a nicely dressed beautiful matured strong educated and well spoken woman walked up to me.
Woman: Hi Debra-Jane
Me: Oh Hello!
Woman: I really wanted you to do my son’s birthday party but I HEARD you are expensive so I didn’t contact you. I was so sad.
Me: You were sad because I didn’t do your son’s birthday party even though you didn’t contact me to do your son’s birthday party and the reason you didn’t contact me to do your son’s birthday party was because you heard I am expensive and that also makes you sad? I would like to say I am sorry but not sure what I am apologising for.
So this person who told you I am expensive, did she call us for a quote?
Me: Has she used us before?
Me: Are any of her relatives my clients?
So at this point I am just dumb founded!
Look at her, look how she looks, can you afford her?
Oh looking at the way she brands herself, I can tell she is expensive.
I don’t know her personally, I have never had any sort of interaction with her. I haven’t even seen her in person before but she is too know, she is some way.
She does events for selected people even though I have never contacted her to do an even for me where she refused.
Dear modern Ghanaian woman, I think it is enough! Don’t you?
March 2017 – Series 11
A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Unless the link is removed, it can never bear great weight. You are only as good as the people you employ! Putting sentiments aside and doing what has to be done has its strains and losses but a long term gain. My current battles. I have said numerous times that the hardest part of my business for me is the human resource management, relations, values, characters, expectations and delivery. It’s a job on its own! You will start the journey with many but won’t end with them. Many will hop on the bus along the way but will also drop off before you hit the finish line. Whilst all this is happening, you ought to keep moving. You are the strongest link, you bear the most weight because you are the only one who knows what it took to get you where you are and what more it will take to get you where you want to get to. The road is filled with many challenges. One of the most intriguing things I have had a male colleague say to me was ” Get a husband, get a life. You are a bitch riding a high horse buried in your work”. I laughed. I realized he said this simply because he was intimidated. He didn’t like that he had to run ideas by me for a decision. After a while he decided to just carry out his role without involving me. I let him. After all, I am more of a man than he is, and ever will be and I am a woman! Some people often say I make it look so easy. Saying I must have it all figured out. Others say I love what I do too much. It’s not that serious! A few think I am obsessed with my brand. Today someone almost suggested that I “diversify” my standards. I stopped her half way between her words. Why? Because I have a dream and that dream meets high standards. Some friends think I work too hard and mock the fact that I am losing sleep and miss out on all the “fun”. They even debate amongst themselves if I am making money doing what I do. I will never break curiosities. I keep creating connections and driving interactions. Against the landscape, I map the future of my focus.
April 2018 – Series 12
Panel discussion: “DOING WHAT YOU LOVE” at SHE SUMMIT 2018 on 19th April, 2018
More and more I hear people encouraging others to be their own CEOs like there is a trophy being handed over to that title. What happens to the recognition of the (usually few) people who are breaking their backs for that CEO to attain the vision? I once asked in my class, why do you want to run your own event company and most of the students responded along the lines of “So that no one can give me orders and so that I can go to work when I want and close when I want”. I burst out laughing and they wondered why.
The moment you sign up to run your own company, unless of course you are not serious about your company, you are going to be taking orders from your clients and all stake holders, running around tirelessly to meet their needs and running around on behalf of your feeble team members too! You don’t even have that luxury of needing to get to work at 8 am and leaving at 5 pm. You are up setting your alarm at 2 am and up checking your emails at 4 am.
All that it is is a circle of CEOs running around to meet the needs of other CEOs. Unfortunately, your client is your boss!
When I decided to leave my corporate job years ago to focus on my side business, at the time it wasn’t because I loved what I was doing. It was because I was good at what I was doing and managed to create a demand for my skill. Thankfully 8 years later, I have remained relevant by always having something to offer. And that is because I DO WHAT I AM more than DOING WHAT I LOVE.
When it comes to working, I am Principled, Disciplined, and Committed. I have gotten to the point where I wake up because I can’t let people down. I move out because I have to keep to my word. I push on because people are looking up to me. I don’t give up because people are driven by me.
There is a businesswoman and a writer who once said: “I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing” She is not getting paid for sex, but she doesn’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Career decisions are not decisions about “WHAT I LOVE MOST?” Career decisions are about “WHAT KIND OF LIFE I WANT TO SET FOR MYSELF”. I hope you understand now why I am in love with her mind. Her advice isn’t against loving your work or having passion for your job. She’s just
pointing out that “DOING WHAT YOU LOVE” isn’t as important as simply “DOING WORK THAT IS VALUED IN YOUR COMMUNITY”.
Steve Martin said “Put your head down and focus on becoming a valuable so good that they can’t ignore you, leading you to a working life that you love. Often, once you realize you are valuable with rewards, either money or fulfillment, you develop a focus to work harder at it, but that alone doesn’t mean you have a good business or you are the CEO of the year. Hard work, ultimately, has to meet with the right business opportunities, allowing your urge to meet real business sense, which presents the test of doing what you love against working for the kind of life you want for yourself.
DO “I LOVE MY WORKING LIFE”? This question always gets me uncomfortable, both physically and mentally because of the many personal sacrifices I have had to make. Finding the balance between my life’s goals and actually living life makes me question if “I LOVE WHAT I DO” or I do what I do because “WHAT I DO IS VALUED”, giving me the opportunity for “A KIND OF LIFE I WANT TO SET FOR MYSELF”.
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