First published on ispaceGh
The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme 2016 list is out! And making on to the list is Emma Tandoh, the founder of Outspoken Edge. Outspoken edge provides a tailor-made suite of services that equip today’s entrepreneur and business owner to improve brand presence, attract and keep new customers and rake in sustainable profits.
I had the unique opportunity to interview Emma. I appreciate her sharing her experiences and how she made it to the List, and I hope you will enjoy this insightful interview!
WHO IS EMMA TANDOH
Emma Tandoh is an ambitious, resourceful, multilingual writer, digital media and technology enthusiast. I studied at the Ghana International School for 15 years and completed with my A-levels in 2002. I went on to study Information Studies, Economics, and Geography at the University of Ghana, Legon, graduating in 2007 with a BA Honours in Geography and Resource Development. I started my career at the USAID/EQUALL Project where I worked as a Programme Assistant and where I co-authored my first book, “Afua Is Too Small”. I’ve also had stints in print media, working as Business Editor for Business World Magazine and later Managing Editor at HR Focus Magazine. I first ventured into ICT in 2011 when I worked as Head of Massaging Services for DreamOval and later on as E-Marketing Specialist at Explainer DC Limited and more recently, Digital Content Manager at the Vlisco Group.
I’ve had a challenging but exciting and rewarding career and I believe that my different experiences have had a direct bearing on the business I currently run at Outspoken Edge. I’ve been able to create the perfect symphony with my passion for writing and my love for marketing and technology to provide digital marketing services to today’s SMEs and entrepreneurs. I’ve always believed in un-relentless passion, hard-work and staying “hungry”. A lot of us stay impoverished by embracing mediocrity, through our deliberate actions. As an entrepreneur is important to be self-motivated and constantly create opportunities for yourself. I’ve had absolutely nothing handed out to me on a silver platter. For some us, especially women, we will have challenges and we will go through more struggles than you’ll ever know. But, as women that’s what gives our beauty an edge – you can’t touch a woman who can wear pain like the grandest of pearls around her neck. I’m constantly looking out to pay it forward and be an inspiration. Personally, I’m inspired by Africans like Strive Masiyiwa , for his impact-driven career lifestyle, and pioneering solar innovation in Africa; Mo Abudu, for her trailblazing vision, drive and ambitious pursuit in media and Aliko Dangote, for showing aspiring African entrepreneurs that it’s possible to build something out of nothing when you have the resilience and grit to dare to begin.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR INSPIRATION
I was raised by an entrepreneur-at-heart(my Mum) and a librarian (my Dad) whose hard-work and discipline continue to influence my career. 15 years ago, I watched my mother move from a stressful job in the Ghanaian public sector to a rewarding and fulfilling life unravelling her passions in her life as an entrepreneur. Her decision to venture into this arduous, lifelong journey spurred me on and nurtured my passion as an entrepreneur. In my formative years, I often relished and aspired to effect change in my world. I dreamt of becoming the UN’s first female Secretary General. This was, for me, the best place to make an impact in the world. Little did I know that I could effect change in my school, in my community, in my country and even on my continent by leading at every given opportunity and availing myself to be an instrument of change wherever I found myself. I was not ready, I don’t think any true entrepreneur ever is. But by taking the first step, testing out my idea, registering my business, I started on a path that over time gave me the skills I needed to venture fully and commit to bringing change to my continent.
WHY WAS OUTSPOKEN EDGE FOUNDED – ANY REASON?
In September 2013, I started a personal shopping business as part of my “side hustle”, called Shopaholic GH. As awesome and as amazing as it sounded, I did an amazing job by garnering my first few clients through word-of-mouth and was able to provide a customized, tailor-made personal shopping service for a few corporate women in Accra. However, along the way, growth stagnated and I tried to reach new clients via social media. The online space as a marketing tool was very new to me at the time and the very few agencies available, charged an arm and leg to manage small businesses and so the passion and dream to grow my business with online tools and to learn about an industry that could help so many entrepreneurs and SME’s fueled the journey to build Outspoken Edge.
Currently, I work with a team of comprising of experienced storytellers, photographers, brand experts; marketing professionals, SEO experts and website designers who all work closely together to provide businesses and website owners with the tools they need to create a viable marketing campaign that can improve visibility and help them reach their goals. We’re growing and our mission is to be Africa’s go-to digital content marketing agency for entrepreneurs and SME’s.
OUTSPOKEN EDGE’S NICHE IS ENTREPRENEURS AND SMES, BUT YOUR BUSINESS SUPPORTS A LOT OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS. WHY IS THIS THE CASE?
There are very few female entrepreneurs who own extremely profitable and large-scale businesses in Africa today. It’s always been easy for men to network and use their network to grow their businesses. Men have also historically found it easier to access credit facilities and funding and put aside big budgets towards growing their business. For a lot of women run entities in Africa, the story is different. Factors such as access to technology, capital and funding have acted as barriers to growth. Outspoken Edge provides women entrepreneurs, SMEs and those in the informal sector training and access to online tools that help scale and make their businesses visible, profitable and sustainable. At Outspoken Edge, we are especially passionate about women entrepreneurs and women-led projects; organizations and institutions because this niche of entrepreneurs have always been marginalized and this is the group that is going to spur on the economic renaissance of our continent. Our tools are structured to help today’s woman scale her business and create a formidable online brand.
HOW WAS THE RECEPTION LIKE? WAS IT DIFFICULT TO START?
The idea to start Outspoken Edge was conceived in late 2014 and the business wasn’t registered until 2015. It’s been quite challenging in the last year because I also had a full-time, demanding, corporate job and that took up a lot of my time in the beginning so it was difficult meeting potential clients and putting in the time to do the work as I didn’t have any staff. People in our part of the world have also, always been cautious about entrepreneurship, so they were more protective of me when I wanted to go into it full-time this year. But I’ve quickly built up my client base and I’m gradually finding my rhythm and getting my processes in place so I’ve garnered a little “cheerleading squad” behind me. The support system is important but it’s important to run your business properly, also know your market and your customers really well and also understand the sacrifices that come along with charting your own path. I’ve not done a few things well, but those failures were learning opportunities. It is also important to start your business to make a difference and not just to make money.
TELL ME ABOUT THE TONY ELUMELU ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAMME AND HOW YOU MADE THE LIST.
Winning the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme in 2016 has been exciting, exhilarating and humbling. The online application process was extremely long and arduous and I remember staying up to about midnight 2 days before the deadline to complete my application. When I got the official email on March 22nd, I wept in total disbelief. I was speechless. I think for 15 minutes I did nothing; I just sat on my sofa, stared at my laptop and cried and prayed and cried some more. It was truly humbling. We’re currently about 3 months through the programme and the knowledge I’ve received is immeasurable. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Tony Elumelu Foundation launched the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme in 2015. The Programme is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and represents a 10-year, $100 million commitment, to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy. This year, over 45,000 entrepreneurs from 54 African countries applied and I was excited to be amongst this year’s cohort. Since April, myself and the other fellows have been receiving intensive online training, networking and mentoring, that provide a tool- kit for success and sustainability. We will also be flown to Nigeria to participate in the three-day Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum later in October, the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurial talent. All Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs who successfully complete the programme will be eligible for funding. There are two (2) stages of funding available to start-up: First-stage seed capital funding of $5,000 which is non-returnable and a Second stage debt or equity capital investment of $5,000 – for qualifying startups that have progressed their business plans sufficiently.