MY CHOICE OF BUSINESS
MY CHOICE OF BUSINESS
An Interview With The Fabulous Vida Obese, A Physician Specialist & Social Entrepreneur
My name is Vida Obese. I am a Physician Specialist at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi and I have keen interest in water and sanitation, entrepreneurship and women empowerment. I am a member of the Ghana College of Physicians and the Founder of Anidaso Parkinson’s Disease Support Group in Kumasi, Ghana. I hold an MPH in Population and Reproductive Health from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. I am married and blessed with two children. I enjoy cooking, singing, and making natural soaps and cosmetics for my family.
My entrepreneurial journey…
I founded an NGO, ‘Nadwos Projects’ whilst in medical school in 2008 with the mission to serve rural deprived communities with potable drinking water and to build knowledge and skills for community members in the area of water and sanitation management, hygiene, education and women empowerment. I have always held the belief that proximity to water at homes means more time for women to engage in economic activities that empower them to improve their standard of living. I led Nadwos Projects to set up 14 school WASH clubs in Kumasi Metropolis with Project WET Foundation USA to empower primary school students to be agents of change in their schools and communities. I worked hard to provide 12 communities with potable water sources that have served over 11000 people living in deprived communities in the Amansie West District, Ashanti Region with donor support. I helped produce a video with the animation “DROPY” to promote water conservation and this was promoted on social media. I always emphasized the role of bringing women to the forefront of any development agenda.
Lessons learnt from managing Nadwos Projects helped me with the setup of my company, Ayofa Essentials Ltd which I started about two years ago (2017) but officially registered last year. I travelled to Wa on a mission to educate some women there about water and sanitation and also teach them how to make tippy taps at home to encourage handwashing. While interacting with some women who were involved in shea butter production, they opened up to me about the challenges they faced. I decided to first of all set up a company to help address their concerns especially as they felt exploited because they were not literate enough and had no form of business management or training so they could not handle most of the business transactions efficiently; they felt that they were being paid poorly for the hard work that they did. I had this concept for my company to help them streamline their work schedules, bargain with the shea buyers for premium rates and also help them access buyers. In the process of doing that, I generated the interest in learning more about the production of shea butter, its uses of and how to incorporate that in other value added products such as soaps, creams, lotion bars and other cosmetic lines. I then had formal training in soapmaking and cosmetic formulation which has helped with the successful release of our retail line of products.
Increasingly, consumers are becoming more aware of what they put on their skin and are yearning for natural alternatives to the chemical laden ones found on shelves. Our goal is to promote the use of 100% natural cosmetics. Ayofa Essentials Ltd is into premium Shea butter production, African black soaps, natural handmade luxury soups, virgin cold pressed coconut oil, pure honey, shea nuts and baobab products.
How I funded my business…
I started Ayofa Essentials with some personal savings and support from family and a few who trusted in my vision. As an entrepreneur there are always challenges right from the start and I have faced a lot. First was the decision to launch into entrepreneurship. Mind you being a Physician Specialist and currently doing my neurology fellowship is time consuming.
A lot of people wonder what influenced my choice of business. I am driven a lot by my passion to see women succeed and working with my women shea groups slowly; eased me into enjoying the world of natural bath and body works products. I am excellent at multitasking and I believe that any woman can do anything she puts her mind to because there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
Ayofa Essentials Ltd started with the 2 women groups and have grown to 18 women shea groups in Wa. I chose the Upper West Region as my area to work in because it is the region with the highest level of poverty in Ghana and I believe that when these women are empowered, they tend to have voices in their community and are able to contribute financially at home and also reduces the number of women migrating to the south to work. This will reduce the acute poverty that is found in the region. My vision for these women is to build the capacity of my women shea groups through literacy, business development and entrepreneurial skills so they can grow in the business. 10% of our profits support the education of the children of our women shea group members.
My mom, Mrs Elizabeth Obese is a phenomenal woman and anybody who has had a few minutes encounter with her will testify. She’s been my number one fan and my mentor. She’s always been the one pushing me to greater heights throughout every journey of my life. I have good family support base and that has helped me a lot in my pursuit of being a doctor, venturing into business and in doing humanitarian work. I learnt all those things from my mom and my grandma because they always bestowed the virtue of kindness in us as a family, but that is not to downplay the efforts from the rest of my family who have been incredible. I believe when you have that form of support, it makes things easier, keeps you sane and motivates you to push further.
My family is always the first to try out any product that I formulate which is very bold, they are my major critics. This has pushed me on the right path and that has helped me in my entrepreneurial journey.
One major challenge is combining all that I do with my job as a wife and mother. What has helped me a lot is meticulous planning and management. I can’t do everything by myself. I have been blessed with dedicated staff who are excellent at what they do and take a lot of headache off my head. I have also had support from other entrepreneurs who provide guidance from time to time
I think traditionally women are born entrepreneurs. One thing I have learnt is that I am capable of doing a lot of things and so I don’t discourage myself. I understand the power of a woman and that is enough to do anything I put my mind to. There’s so much in us as women that we are able to take and able to manage. Being a doctor and doing all these things should prove to you that we can do anything that we put our minds to.
I have had to deal with a lot of women and generally it is not easy. It has taught me to be more patient, resilient, understanding and to view the world of women from the perspective of women. I have learnt to give my employees the opportunity to formulate solutions to their problems. You should always give them the opportunity to brainstorm and bring out solutions with their opinions included. I am nowhere near where I want to be. I will keep pushing through failures and successes with God on my side.
My advice for everyone and especially women is for us to open our minds to the limitless opportunities to make a difference in our homes, communities and country at large. Let’s not dwell on difficulties that have preceded our today. Ask yourself this question, “Today, what decision can I make for myself that will make me a better person and more useful to those around me?” If you are in business, please do stay relevant and make impact.Future projections…
Ayofa Essentials will organize soapmaking classes for people interested in natural soap making and cosmetic formulations. We will train more women shea nut collectors and processors in quality and organic processes. We intend to expand our innovative product line with the inclusion of natural baby care range and men’s range of natural products. Our vision is to expand our regional and international market access.
Support Ayofa Essentials by buying from us, sharing and liking our page and posts. Your support goes a long way to show the world how hardworking our women shea groups are and empowers them economically.
We are on Facebook and Instagram as Ayofa Essentials and you can contact us via Whatsapp or phone on +233200001480. We ship worldwide.
Ayofa Essentials Ltd
Affordable luxury, the natural way
Interviewed by Ama Duncan, Founder of The Fabulous Woman Network
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