Visiting Suppliers in Africa. First Stop: Ghana!

To make sure our jewelry is being made to the highest standards, in the right colors, and in fair-wage working environments, we traveled to Africa to visit our suppliers in Ghana and Uganda.

Landing in the Accra airport was like coming home. Gone were the butterflies and trepidation we felt when arriving for the first time in 2013.

This time, we knew the drill:

  1. Stand close to the door of the bus from the plane; get off quickly to be near the front of the immigration line.
  2. Wave our proof of yellow fever vaccinations in front of the Health Officer.
  3. Proceed slowly in the queue to get our passports stamped.
  4. Show our Resident Permits.
  5. Stamp, stamp. Stamp, stamp. Stamp, stamp.

Tony, our favorite driver, greeted us with a smile, and took us to 5A, our old apartment.

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Instead of the master bedroom where Corinne (the current resident) lives, we made ourselves at home in a back bedroom, formerly home to Clinton.

We arrived at the SEED center on Friday morning, and enjoyed re-connecting with our Ghanaian colleagues. Our only regret was that two of the current coaches were traveling during our visit, so we didn’t get to see them as much as we would have liked.

On Friday, we met Lauren Grimanas, an enterprising young woman from Massachusetts who leads the Akaa Project which built a school in a remote village in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Previously there was no school in this village, and now her community school educates 100 children, ages 3 to 13. Recently, when some students moved to the “state school”, they tested two years ahead of grade level. Very impressive. We brainstormed on ways that RahRah4Good could support this school, since our new tagline is “Support Your School… Support Their Schooling”. She brought up the idea of handmade headbands in school colors. (She had previously sold this type of item on Etsy, and the ladies in her village are good at sewing.)

On Saturday, we made a trip to the bead market in the Eastern Region, where we confirmed that the Ghanaian beads just won't work for RahRah4Good, since the color selection is limited.  (But, they're beautiful, as Ed notes in his gallery.)

Agomanya Bead Market 4

Instead, we purchased some Ghanaian Batik fabric in the colors of our three schools.

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Later we had the chance to visit Lauren’s village and see her school.

Akaa Project and Asiafo Amanfro 2 Akaa Project and Asiafo Amanfro 3 Akaa Project and Asiafo Amanfro 30 Akaa Project and Asiafo Amanfro 22

Akaa Project and Asiafo Amanfro 16

A major achievement was to raise the funds and install micro-flush biofill toilets at the school, which they call, “A Place to Poop”.

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We met a group of volunteers from the College of Wooster who were there to help for a few weeks.

Akaa Project and Asiafo Amanfro 6

We gave Lauren the fabric, and she promised to work with the ladies in the village to sew sample headbands, and deliver them to us on Tuesday in Accra. The ladies in her village were delighted with their increased income. And, a portion of the revenue goes directly to the school.

Since we are now expanding the category of RahRah4Good from “jewelry” to “accessories”, we made another new contact – Auntie Grace, provider of custom Batik! On Monday, we explained our mission to her, and she agreed to dye custom fabric for our three target schools.

On Tuesday, Ed visited her during the making of the custom fabrics and chronicled the steps. First, Auntie Grace used her dyeing skills to expertly match the colors and create the dye.

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The workers used foam stamps pressed in hot wax to mark the fabric with traditional designs.

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They dipped the fabric in the dye. All areas without wax absorbed the color.

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Then they melted the wax in boiling to remove it. And, the custom samples were done.

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We picked them up and then were able to pass them along to Lauren for more headbands.

We were also referred to a group of men who make custom bracelets using leather and string. They’re making samples in our team colors as well. We hope these bracelets might appeal to men in our target markets.

In Accra, we presented an information session for local entrepreneurs on Startup Chile. We promoted this session on various entrepreneurial mailing lists and were delighted with the attendance–over 35 people came to the meeting. Some hope to apply to be in “Generation 11”.

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Also, we loved touching base with some of our old clients! Jan visited the pharmaceutical company and the electrical contractor, while Ed visited the Internet service provider and the produce company. All were delighted with these reunions!

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Jan was even able to witness the “debut” of the new ORS packaging that she helped design! The first roll was just going on the filling machine. Very exciting!

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In Ghana, we were very fortunate to see old friends and make new ones! Even though our visit was short, we are thrilled with our three new suppliers and interesting new products for our emerging venture.

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