Leaving a stable income-earning job to venture into the brave and sometimes yet ‘unknown world’ of entrepreneurship can be daunting. When your newfound venture does not take off as imagined, you begin to question your decisions and beat yourself up in the struggle.
This is why it is imperative to have all the necessary homework done to find out how viable and scalable your business model is before plunging your entire self into the venture.
Meet Frederick Mawuli Degbee, the CEO of Heel The World, a shoe manufacturing company based in Ghana.
The Entrepreneurship strides – How it began
Frederick’s entrepreneurship journey to building his successful shoe-making company began when he walked out of a store in Ghana with a new pair of high-end Pierre Cardin shoes. As he admired the shoes, Fred was kept in bewilderment as to why local shoemakers were not making such well-crafted shoes. His bewildered state led him to ask a local shoemaker he met outside the store why we couldn’t make such shoes here in the country to which the shoemaker replied that it was “impossible”.
“I was surprised! It was almost as if I had asked him about making a spaceship,” said Frederick in an interview. “But I realized that it fit with a widespread Ghanaian dependency on foreign innovation. Local entrepreneurs had moved away from competing with luxury brands worldwide because it had become almost impossible to gain as much acceptance – especially on the perceived quality of products,” Frederick further said.
The conversation of “impossibility” he had with the shoemaker coupled with the realization of Ghana’s need to be dependent on foreign goods will spark an unquenchable desire to change the narrative. So, while working at the bank, he ventured into the shoe-making business with a committed and hardworking team. At this time, however, he was subcontracting work to local artisans. This was in 2010.
As demand for his shoes grew, Frederick realized it was time to leave the bank and focus on his growing venture. By the end of 2011, Frederick quit his job at the bank and channeled his energy into growing his shoe manufacturing brand ‘Heel the World’ which grew exponentially. According to Frederick, Heel the World was a signifier to not only make an impact in Africa but the world.
“Heel the World is more than a shoe company – it is a social enterprise that counters perceptions of the quality and capabilities of Ghanaian craftsmanship,” Frederick said in an interview.
Entrepreneurship Strides – What is more?
In addition to the shoes, his company also makes wrist beads known as ‘Empowerment Beads’ which he says has become the most copied Ghanaian product he had ever seen.
In an interview, Frederick was asked, what conventional business wisdom do you disagree with? This was his response.
“When somebody says they are a self-made person it makes me laugh. There is no such thing. Every successful person is due to a unique set of circumstances coming together to favour them. Sometimes it is good or bad parenting, sometimes it is education and sometimes it is a smile at an air hostess that gets you an upgrade on the flight to sit with a future investor.”
“Nobody can do it alone, nobody can take all the glory. Jack Ma once said that if the world labels you a billionaire, the billion is not your money or even your value but rather a reflection of the level of trust/confidence that people have in you. No individual has the power to wield that can of power,” he further said.
It is important to mention that Frederick Mawuli Degbee was a student at Ashesi University which he joined in 2003 and served as the second president of the Ashesi Student Council.