Hi, I'm Agyepomaa Oklah, the creative director of Ajepomaa Design Gallery, and I'm excited to share our journey. Our fashion apparel company has been around since February 2010, and it's been a 12-year adventure filled with ups and downs. Before COVID-19, we were a small team of five, and we were manufacturing for both our online and in-store customers. However, the online part of our business was moving slowly at the time. But when COVID hit, things changed dramatically. The pandemic forced people to stay home, and they started ordering online. This shift helped boost our online business significantly. As for our in-store operations, it took some time before we saw improvements.
In 2021, we experienced a substantial drop in our in-store sales due to the lingering effects of COVID-19. We had to make some tough choices, including staff layoffs and having our remaining team work reduced hours. But then, I heard about the COVID-19 response grant from GEA, supported by the World Bank, through a relative. Later, it was advertised in newspapers and on billboards across the city, making me even more eager to apply.
I was thrilled when I got approved for the grant. It was my first time receiving support from the Government of Ghana. The grant amounted to 44,000 Ghana CEDs, which was equivalent to $10,000 at the time. With this financial boost, we were able to hire more people, invest in equipment, and expand our operations. We doubled our production output, going from around 20 pieces per week to an impressive 35 to 40 pieces.
We also harnessed the increasing demand for online shopping through platforms like WhatsApp and our e-commerce website. The grant allowed us to enhance our online presence and meet the needs of our customers. The grant's positive impact extended to our physical store. With its help, we were able to move to a new location, marking a significant milestone in our journey.
I am incredibly thankful to the Ghana Enterprise Agency, the World Bank, and the Government of Ghana for granting us this opportunity to expand our business and fuel our growth. Our journey at Ajepomaa Design Gallery is a testament to the power of resilience and how the right support can transform a small business. We've emerged from the challenges of COVID-19 stronger and more influential than ever.
As we continue to inspire and thrive in Accra, Ghana, our story serves as a beacon of hope for all entrepreneurs and business owners. It's a reminder that with determination and support, anything is possible. We're living proof that the journey to growth is both challenging and rewarding.
In our current business landscape, sustainability has become more than just a buzzword; it's a driving force that shapes success and resilience. For Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs), integrating sustainability into your business model is not only a matter of responsibility but also a strategic advantage. In this article, we explore why sustainability is essential for MSMEs and how to incorporate it successfully.
The Significance of Sustainability for MSMEs
Competitive Edge: Sustainability sets your MSME apart from competitors. Today's consumers are increasingly mindful of the environmental and social impact of their choices. By embracing sustainability, your business can attract a growing customer base that values ethical practices.
Cost Efficiency: Sustainability practices often lead to reduced operational costs. By minimizing waste, optimizing resource usage, and adopting energy-efficient technologies, MSMEs can achieve significant savings in the long run.
Risk Mitigation: Sustainability strategies help MSMEs navigate potential environmental and supply chain risks. Being proactive in addressing these challenges enhances resilience and business continuity.
Access to Funding: Many investors and financial institutions prioritize businesses with strong sustainability initiatives. Integrating sustainability can make your MSME more attractive to potential investors and open doors to funding opportunities.
Talent Attraction: In a competitive job market, sustainability initiatives can help your MSME attract and retain top talent. Employees increasingly seek workplaces that align with their values and offer opportunities to make a meaningful impact.
How to Incorporate Sustainability into Your MSME
Define Your Sustainability Goals: Begin by setting clear and measurable sustainability objectives that align with your business values and long-term vision. Whether it's reducing environmental impact or supporting local communities, well-defined goals provide direction.
Evaluate Current Practices: Assess your current business practices to identify areas where sustainability can be integrated. This baseline evaluation will serve as a reference point for future improvements.
Engage Your Team: Sustainability is a collective effort. Engage your employees in sustainability initiatives by fostering a culture of responsibility and environmental awareness. Consider appointing a sustainability champion to drive these efforts.
Sustainable Procurement: Examine your supply chain for sustainable sourcing opportunities. Seek eco-friendly suppliers, consider local procurement to reduce carbon footprint, and prioritize products with sustainable certifications.
Energy Efficiency: Explore ways to reduce energy consumption within your operations. Implement energy-efficient systems and, if feasible, invest in renewable energy sources to align with sustainability goals.
Communicate Your Commitment: Share your sustainability journey with stakeholders. Develop a sustainability statement or policy, maintain transparency about your progress, and incorporate sustainability into your marketing and branding to effectively communicate your commitment.
Embracing sustainability is no longer an option for MSMEs; it's a strategic imperative. By integrating sustainability into your business model, you not only contribute to a better world but also secure a competitive edge, reduce operational costs, mitigate risks, and attract top talent. Sustainability is a path to prosperity that aligns with responsible business practices, and it's a journey that's worth taking for the success and longevity of your MSME.