Originally posted on Start
The African Heritage Clothing company in Accra started with 4 workers in 2014 and now employs 12 people. Her customer base of hotels that she supplies to has grown from 15 to 40. Her turnover in 2015 grew by 340% from the 2014 revenues. The company has now moved to bigger premises away from operating from a ‘container’ factory in the CEO’s residence. “Numbers don’t lie…this is the impact of the Programme” and the success story of Mr Fred Shava, CEO of African Heritage Clothing, a proud beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is the flagship entrepreneurship programme of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, founded by the entrepreneur, respected investor, philanthropist and Nigerian-born, Tony O. Elumelu. The programme, described as the first of its kind to be launched by an African philanthropic organisation in Africa is targeted at creating one million new jobs throughout the continent by supporting 100,000 young African entrepreneurs within the next ten years.
Recounting how he became a TEF beneficiary, Mr Fred Shava said that he first learnt about the programme from the internet. His business, manufacturing and supplying uniforms to the corporate sector, hotels, schools and churches, was only 6 months old then.
Mr Shava said that he was motivated to apply to join the programme because of the mentorship he was going to get from the self-made-millionaire and the exposure his business was going to get. He said this was priceless and everything else was secondary.
He said that waiting for results of the selection process was a nerve-racking experience. According to him, the organizers kept them informed throughout the process and especially, when the announcement was to be made. He said the winners were personally informed by Mr Tony (as he is fondly referred to now) through a personalized recording sent to each of the winners after which a list was circulated. “I still remember vividly well when the personalized message recording rung through my ears, “l am happy to inform you that you are the winner..,” and l never listened to the rest. I am a pretty hardened fellow and my tears never come easy but that day tears swelled in my eyes. It was the most exhilarating experience l had felt in a long time,” said Mr Shava. He was privileged and honoured to be among the top 1,000 winners.
After the selection process, Mr Shava said he spent 12 weeks undergoing online training, mentorship, webinar sessions and learning practical entrepreneurship-business tactics. After that, he and the other lucky winners were flown to Lagos for the biggest-ever boot camp ever hosted in Africa by an African. The experience, according to Mr Shava, was very inspirational.
The expenses for the Boot Camp in Nigeria, were fully paid for by the Tony Elumelu Foundation including visa application fees and air tickets.
The CEO of African Heritage Clothing noted that having to combine running the business and attending to the mentorship-training sessions was very demanding but it made him much stronger and resilient.
Describing the experience at the Boot Camp, Mr Shava said that they had various motivational speakers, illustrated entrepreneurs, and heads of state come to address them and share their experiences. He said besides that, he had the opportunity to interact with other 999 winners from 54 countries presenting him with the biggest networking platform.
Asked whether the programme was useful, Mr Shava stated, “useful is an understatement. I now have access to the biggest entrepreneurship alumni network in Africa. What else can l ask for?”
He says of the Boot Camp, “it made me believe everything is possible if you put your mind and focus into it. Failure is not an option. I am now better equipped to run my business and avoid pitfalls that made other businesses fail.”
About his business, African Heritage Clothing, Mr Fred Shava said that initially, he imported uniforms which he supplied to hotels. He said that business was good but things took a twist when the CEDI lost value against the dollar in 2014. That meant that his uniforms became expensive and hotels stopped buying, thereby drying his source of income. He looked within and started producing locally.
Today, African Heritage Clothing is the first dedicated manufacturer of hotel uniforms in Ghana. In addition, Mr Shava has diversified his business by adding more product lines (aside hotel uniforms) to the business. Now, he does school wear, corporate wear, industrial protective wear, various government uniforms, t-shirts, graduation & church gowns.
The Vision of the company is “To become the most dominant and sought-after uniform brand in Africa by the year 2020”. With the support of the Foundation, the sky is the limit for Mr Fred Shava.
African Heritage Team when we were starting in 2014 after conducting a training session. Now the number has doubled.