I was so nervous when I flew in and was worried about setting up everything for Hemma's operations abroad. I couldn't have asked for better trip and I am so excited to show everyone the products of our hard work!
Hemma creates fresh, elegant collections using authentic hand-woven Kente, a textile rich in African royal tradition. Kente began to flourish in West Africa in the 17th century and still remains prominent representing social prestige, luxury, and cultural sophistication. Each garment is uniquely handmade from intricately hand-woven Kente imported from Ghana. By incorporating the same techniques used to dress Ghanaian nobility for centuries, Hemma allows each client to exude royalty. By investing in quality pieces that last a lifetime, the lives of Ghanaian school children are also impacted. A percentage of all proceeds will be donated to a West African middle school where the designers instructed classes.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My last day in Ghana was great. It started at Kokrobite beach where I hung out with some friends I met from Ashesi University last year. A man with a horse came by and we each ended up taking a ride on the horse. Then some local fisherman offered to catch us lobster (only about .80 each!!) which ended up being our lunch. It was a perfect ending to the trip. I had my last meeting with Richmond our Operations Manager in Ghana and the leading tailor which went extremely well. All of the garments came out great and I couldn't ask for a better trip. And then there was packing and my last outing at Rhapsody lounge at the Accra Mall.
Richie Rich (his nickname for himself), is our operations manager. He is great at getting any job done, and I am so excited that he is on the Hemma team. He graduated from the University of Ghana in May 2007 and was a senior there when Edna and I studied abroad.
We all took a trip to Kumasi that year and he helped us buy our first bundles of kente. I just came from Tokaradi, Ghana where he lives and teaches in a middle school from Monday - Wednesday and got to meet his students and faculty members. We had several meetings with the tailors together and I am so happy that it is all working out!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Every Thursday in Koforidua (about 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Accra) there's this bead market that everyone flocks to for the best prices. I found out about it during my NYU in Ghana semester. I took a History of African Art course and the whole class took a trip there with one of my favorite Ghanaian professors we called Uncle Joe. Vendors come from all over with beads from Ghana, Kenya, Congo, basically everywhere in Africa. Here are some stones found underwater in Ghana that may be used for the upcoming Hemma jewelry line.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
They love him out here; I mean there's a freakin Ghanaian song dedicated to him! Why do they love Obama so much, well according to Ghanaian news its partly because his father is of African descent and they see his accomplishments as inspiration. Many Ghanians are also hoping for an alteration of U.S. African policies leading to a trickling down of benefits for African countries. Everyday I either see people wearing Obama t-shirts, a Ghanaian biography book of Obama being sold on the streets, or even the Obama poster. I mean, I woke up Thursday morning in Kumasi and the first thing I heard was the screaming of his name from outside!
Friday, November 7, 2008
So I am on my way to purchase the fabric for the line at the kente village in Kumasi, assuming everything will go according to plan....which most likely doesn’t happen in Ghana! Of course the bus breaks down only a quarter of the way there! So we were stuck waiting for a new bus to arrive from Accra for 4 hours!! I made friends with two elderly men, one who was on the way to see his 107 year old mom! He takes the trip every month and cherishes each one as he knows she will not be with him for much longer. So I finally made it to Kumasi with a grand total of 8.5 hours on the bus and ended up sleeping there and buying the kente a day later than planned. I spent the whole day in the kente village going from vendor to vendor trying to purchase enough for the initial line. Since the road was so dusty on the way there and we were out in the sun all day the only thing I wanted to do when I got back home was take a shower! When I arrived back to Accra by 11:30pm I turned on the shower and nothing came out! No water..damn...guess there’s always tomorrow....
Monday, November 3, 2008
So I was very nervous about going to Ghana without Edna, I mean we had such a great time studying abroad there and I couldn't believe that I was traveling back for Hemma by myself! But during the flight I remembered another reason why I loved Ghana: Ghanaians are so welcoming! This is how I managed to get a new boyfriend and be the bottle opener official all in the 9 hour flight to Ghana. So, theres this cute 3 year old boy sitting in front of me who manages to waddle his way over to my seat. As always, babies are just attracted to me! By the end of the flight, everyone was referring to me as his new girlfriend! By dinner time the flight attendants were serving wine. There were older women around me and somehow I became the official wine bottle opener for those 55+ women who wanted to get their drink on. Although I was on the flight alone, I felt right at home!
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Cindy just left to Ghana! Production of Hemma has officially begun. There she is ready for lift off! However, nothing is ever as smooth as it seems...but I'm realizing more and more that whatever can go wrong probably will and your job as the owner of a business is to suck it up and make it seem seamless. A small example: Cindy calls me understandably freaking out because the Airline she's flying want to charge her $600 in over-weight fees for her luggage. Luggage that is carrying raw materials for Hemma! A huge expense we didn't expect on having and like for any small business, funds have to be allocated very carefully. Some how she got the rep to go down by almost half...which leads me to believe that he was just trying to hustle us! Another trap expecially for small businesses to look out for. So she had to use her Ghana spending money and I had to Western Union her more money later that day. I was ill prepared for what happened next...I couldn't log into Cindy's account online because the password wasn't working, so I made my own account. We all know how long registering for a site takes, so you can understand how frustrated I was when the transaction didn't go through. Then I called customer service-- the most incompetent people I have ever spoken to! I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a rep trying to do an over the phone transaction, only to find out after all that that he could not put my transaction through, wtf I thought to myself! Then I got dressed and went to my bank in order to send Cindy $ from a physical Western Union. When I get to my bank, a withdrawal had been made from my account in the same amount that I was trying to send to Ghana! (even tho my transaction had failed and was canceled) So this lead to 3 more hours on the phone, back and forth between my bank and W.U. No Help! Which reminds me, always get the name of any rep you speak to over the phone from any company. After all this time, the conclusion they give me is that I have to wait until Tuesday and see if they money has been returned to my bank account. So I spent 4 hrs on a Saturday night on the phone with reps only to have nothing taken care of and $500 poorer (at least temporarily, I hope). In the end I had to borrow money from my boyfriend to send to Cindy until my situation clears up. So the moral of the story is, no matter how frustrated you are, remember that its all part of earning your stripes as a business owner and no matter how prepared you think you are, the unexpected ALWAYS arises! Enjoy the struggle and keep moving forward because there's always tomorrow...