He was young and smart. So smart that he saw a business opportunity when friends continuously complemented him on how good his feet looked anytime they met.
To them, he wore good quality custom made shoes from Italy. The truth, they were the handiwork of Master Effah whose rickety shop was only a few meters away from where Tonyi lived during his National Service days.
Tonyi would tell his friends that the shoes were made locally in Ghana, and these friends, the doubting thomases they were, would sometimes place orders with him to get some of these shoes in order to satisfy their curiosity, of course, to also look good and receive complements from their colleagues as well.
This would go on for some time until one friend of Tonyi who worked at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) also placed an order for a shoe. When the order was met and this friend wore the shoe to work, Tonyi would then realise a real business opportunity.
“When my service was just about ending I had a man in my house who had a very rickety shop who was making shoes so after work, I would go sit with him, have conversations, pull designs from the internet and ask ‘massa wobetumi ay3 wei’?. So I bought one pair from him, took it to work and my colleagues liked it.
They wondered how I could afford a pair, considering the fact that we were being paid GHS125 at the time. They didn’t believe it was made in Ghana so those who knew where I lived will come and place orders. Then I had a friend at PWC who ordered a pair, took it to work and then I started receiving calls. Then it dawned on me that it didn’t really matter to Ghanaians where the shoes were coming from provided they were of good quality. So for me, then and there, I realized there was an opportunity,” Tonyi Senayah recounted as he sat with Kwabena Kyenkyenhene Boateng on the Business Edition of 21 minutes with KKB.
An idea birthed, a business started – oh the joy of the young university graduate turned entrepreneur.
And to think he would be overwhelmed after a proposal he sent to a number of Senior High Schools was accepted and contracts awarded him for the production and supply of shoes and sandals to a number of Senior High Schools in the country – Mfantsipim, Accra Girls, GSTS among others.
The young Tonyi, brimming with confidence and joy, would borrow some money from friends and investors in order to satisfy this demand hoping to make some returns and pay back his loans with interest. He would soon realise though that doing business comes with it a lot of risks and challenges and boy, he learnt it the hard way.
“I learnt a lesson in there. I would later realise that schools don’t pay cash upfront so it really suffocated me. In 2010 December even though I had done a lot of business – supplied a lot of schools – I owed a lot. I owed suppliers, I owed workers so anytime my phone rang my heart skipped a beat and my mother would ask when I’ll quit the business. It was a tough time…since then, I realized that it takes more than just writing a proposal and then agreeing verbally to supply institutions and for that matter, transact any sale. You would have to have written down agreements, understand their business and all that”
When asked by host Kwabena Kyenkyenhene Boateng how he dealt with his creditors, Tonyi would give an answer which hit the core of Ghanaian values.
Watch the full interview of Chief Executive Officer of Horseman Shoes, Tonyi Senayah on the business edition of 21 minutes with KKB below:
Source: Kwabena Kyenkyenhene Boateng | 21 minutes with KKB
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