Who is Esther Afua Ocloo, you ask? Well, she was an inspiring entrepreneur hailing from Ghana whose works go beyond the African borders.
Ocloo, the founder of Nkulenu Industries, remains a pillar to reckon with especially due to her endeavor to empower millions of other women to succeed in business.
On completing high school, Ocloo began her business with only a few Ghanaian shillings given to her by an aunt. That was back in 1930. She bought sugar, oranges and 12 jars to make marmalade jam.
Ever since she worked with local women and became a source of inspiration for many. In one of her speeches, she is quoted as saying: “women must know that the strongest power in the world is the economic power, and you cannot go begging to your husband for every little thing.”
In 1990, she received the Africa Prize for Leadership; becoming the first woman to receive it.
It is because of these and many other achievements that Google dedicated to her a ‘doodle’ illustration on April 18 to mark what would have been her 98th birthday. Ocloo died, but her legacy lives on.
Her journey in entrepreneurship can provide guidance to existing as well as upcoming businesses. Here is a summary:
Have a go-getter mentality
When Ocloo began her journey, she had just completed high school, a time when many young people think of searching for white color jobs. While such jobs are good, starting initiatives that can provide employment to many can be as rewarding, or even better.
She stood her ground despite the ridicule she received from her classmates.
After selling her first products at a profit, she pressed further, and luck was on her side. She won a contract to supply her high school with marmalade jam and orange juice. Later, she managed to secure a deal to provide the military with her products. The business was growing.
Using the contracts, Ocloo took out a bank loan which helped in setting up a business, in 1942, under her maiden name, “Nkulenu”.
Education/information is critical to advancing business
Gathering the right information is essential for growing a business.
For this reason, Ocloo traveled to England to undertake a course, Food Science and Modern Processing Techniques at Bristol University.
In 1953, armed with new skills and determination to help her home country, then the Gold Coast, to become self-sufficient, she returned to Ghana.
Today, more than eight decades since she made her first juice and marmalade jam, Nkulenu Industries still makes orange marmalade and exports indigenous food items to international markets.
In 9962, the company relocated to its present location at Madina, a suburb of the capital city, Accra.
Uplift other people
“Auntie Ocloo”, as she was fondly known began advocating for women economic status in the 1970s.
Following her local involvement with local women, she was invited to Mexico for the first UN World Conference on Women. Later, she co-founded and became chair of the board of directors of Women’s World Banking, which has since supported millions of women to set up their own ventures.
Other than that, Ocloo engaged in training projects where she shared her skills with other Ghanaian women interested in preparing and selling food products on the street.
Ocloo died in 2002 aged 82 after suffering from pneumonia. She will be remembered for her many accomplishments including championing for alternative solutions to the problems of hunger, poverty, and distribution of wealth. She also campaigned for the development of sustainable agriculture in Ghana.
“Our problem here in Ghana is that we have turned our back on agriculture. Over the past 40 years, since the beginning of compulsory education, we have been mimicking the west.” She said this in an interview in 1999.
At her state burial in Accra, former president John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor said: “She was a creator and we need many people of her caliber to build our nation”.
“Her good works in the promotion of development in Ghana cannot be measured,” he added.
Image credit: Google Doodle