Day 12: Grand Casamora Hotel

I had to wake up ‘early’ today. I had an appointment at the Grand Casamora hotel in East Legon at 10am. It is a really nice hotel with a pool, conference rooms, bar, lounge area etc. The owner/manager of the hotel used to live in Holland but decided to come back. Ghana is home to him and even though he travelled, he always knew that he wanted to come back. He is currently expanding the hotel. He now has 12 rooms but in the near future he hopes to have 48 hotel rooms.

Starting a hotel was not the main business idea that brought him to Ghana but after having tried some other business opportunities he realized that he had some of the means in place to make it work.

There have been some blows for the hospitality industry such as the ebola outbreak but it seems that things are getting back on track for his hotel.

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#DUMSOR

So I have had an awesome time here in Ghana so far. But as I sit here in the dark, sweating like crazy I feel the need to blog about one of the things I do not love about Ghana – DUMSOR (electricity or the lack thereof). Having electricity is not guaranteed 24/7 in many places in Ghana, unless you have a generator or use solar panels. Just imagine coming home after a long day and all you want to do is take a cold shower and go to bed. But no, there is no airconditioning and the room feels more like a sauna. There were nights were I literally didn’t sleep because of the dumsor or I would even wake up in the middle of the night after the aircon stopped working. I am starting to get used to it but I am everything but happy with it. It is one of the things I don’t like about life here but at the end of the day the positive things that I do love outweigh the negatives. So what is the reason for the dumsor problem? I have asked people before but no one has been able to explain it to me in a way that made sense to me. So I will just leave it under the label of ‘Mismanagement’. If any reads this and wants to explain it to me (on paper so that I can take my time and read it) that would be awesome.

PS: Check this picture of me in my fabulous outfit! Do you like it #dumsor?

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

This is Lois!

If there is nothing you know about me then you need to at least know that I love kids. Just like this one right here. This is my little cousin Lois. Lois like to have things her way. She was named after my mum! I am not saying that there is a correlation between the two nor am I saying there isn’t.

Anyways, this little girl makes me laugh so much. She is so smart for a three year old girl. Everyone in the neighborhood knows her. She can proudly sing our national anthem, national pledge and the Lord’s Prayer. I love to pick her up from school especially since her school is literally opposite to our house. We our the best of friends but we also fight everyday! But I honestly can’t even get mad at her cause she’s just too funny. She really has a large imagination and loves to tell stories, very interesting stories lol. She also loves to act! I think she could be a very successful actress, but in all honesty I think she will be successful in whatever she does. Yesterday she said that she wants to be a hairdresser in the future, today it is a police officer. I’ll just have to wait and see. But to me, she represents young kids all around the country. So beautiful and so intelligent and full of potential.

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day 8: Interview no. 5 & West Hills Mall

I had another interview today with a diaspora entrepreneur. He has his own school in Ghana and has grown a lot since he first started. It was a very inspirational interview. He lived in Europe for almost 30 years but always knew that he’d like to return back to Ghana. He has close to hundred kids and expects to grow with at least 300% in the next few years. He found a solution for his school (for the electricity problems in Ghana) by using solar panels.

Afterwards we want to the West Hills Mall. I think it is said to be the biggest mall in the whole of West Africa.

I love natural products so when I walked passed this store, I had to enter. It kind of reminded me of Lush Cosmetics just that all the products here are made in Ghana. I ended up buying three shower gels (Strawberry, Coconut and Aloe Vera and some essential oils). I will definitely visit their store again. They are in Accra Mall, West Hills Mall and Achimota Retail Center. It is called Unique Aromas and you can visit their website at http://www.uniquearomasgh.com or follow them on social media.

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day 7: Creo Concepts

Today I had an interview that I was very excited about. It was my meeting with the managing partner of Creo Concepts. I had first heard about Creo Concepts through my sister. She had heard of Creo Concepts during the first TEDxAccra event in april 2015. She told me about it but I hadn’t seen any work by Creo so I just left it at that. It was not until one of their works went viral to the extent that almost every Ghanaian lady in my Facebook or whatsapp list posted a picture with their day name. So a bit of background information on the day names. In Ghana every day in the week has a day name for women and for men. So for example a woman that is born on sunday is called ‘Akosua’. Apparently Akosuas are patient, confident, adaptable, helpful and smart. These are obviously just a few characteristics of Akosua. I must say that I agree and I am not just saying that because I am an Akosua. So basically Creo Concepts did such an amazing job on the design but also the fact that their work is online and digital makes is very easy for people to share and for it to go viral. Anyways after seeing some of their creations, I was determined to get an interview with Creo Concepts.

To my own surprise I was able to have an interview and I ended up being inspired and excited to see how far Creo Concepts can take their business. They have a really cool team and allow their creativity to play a leading role in their job. They have found a way to make work fun and refuse to accept mediocrity and rather go for excellence. The expertise and creative talents that work for Creo Concepts make it the company that it is. Creo Concepts is a creative agency or an advertising agency if you will. But they do so much that it is hard to put a label on them. Their work really speaks for itself and I am pretty sure they are going to be even bigger in the next few years. I would just advice everyone to check their work out: http://www.creoconceptsgh.com or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day 6: Church time

So without a doubt sunday is church day for me. There are a lot of churches in Ghana – literally on every corner. This sunday I went to fellowship with Tabernacle of Jesus Church (I believe that is the name of the church but don’t pin me down on it lol). So anyways, this church is in Tema, about 40 minutes from my house. It is a small (community) church but I always enjoy the service (singing, dancing and hearing God’s word).

After the service we want back home to enjoy a nice meal – fufu and light soup. I really love the local Ghanaian dishes.

Then after having lunch/dinner we want to Airport Hills, which is a gated area. You need to know someone there before you can enter. I had the privilege of interviewing an entrepreneur there. I got to see really massive and beautiful houses. Nothing compared to the houses I have seen back in Holland. The differences between rich and poor are (in my opinion) pretty big in Ghana. Nevertheless, I see joy in people’s eyes. There is a level of contentment that people have learned to reach here that we could learn a lot from in the Western world.

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day 5: GIMPA

My location for the day was the GIMPA: Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. After my successful interviews  on friday, it was time for me to transcribe all the information. I went to the GIMPA university campus library. The campuses in Ghana are really big and have few sign boards so we had to constantly ask students where the library was. One lady was kind enough to get in the car with us and show us the way. Just like the library at the Legon University I was not allowed to take my bags with me but this time I was prepared. I took my laptop and phone with me and started transcribing the interviews. Unfortunately I couldn’t carry my camera with me so I took a quick picture of my desk with my phone. It was really quiet and there were just a few students studying which I understand because it is weekend.

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Since it is weekend, the library was only open until 16pm. I was able to transcribe one interview and then it was time to leave already. I went home to enjoy a nice meal of yam and spinach (kontomire) stew.

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day 3: Amir Hotel – Sky Garden restaurant

Day three of my stay, so far so good! I have managed to get an interview on friday so I proceeded to find a nice spot where I can work on structuring my interview questions. I went to Amir Hotel in Achimota Kisseman (Next to the Pure Fire church building). Once I got there I met the lovely manager Sofia who took me to the Sky Garden restaurant. I find customer service extremely important, so I really appreciated the fact that the manager was so hospitable.

There was an amazing breeze and it was perfect for working. But I eventually had to switch places cause my laptop almost flew off the table. I would have cried if that actually happened. Yes, it is that deep!

I ordered a fresh mango juice and half chicken with jollof rice. It was good!! I must have spend about four hours at the restaurant. It is a nice hotel and they also have a spa, hair salon and more. Another awesome day. Now time to sleep!

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day 2: The Balme Library, Tayiba Restaurant & Botanical Gardens

Time to get busy today! I wanted to go to the university library to work on my thesis. My dad drove me to the Legon University Campus, which is pretty big. But, it did not go as planned. Upon entering the premises, I was ‘called’ by the security guard. In reality he said ‘sssssss’ but in Ghana that equals, ‘hey you there!’. He then proceeded to tell me that I could not enter the building with my bags. When I looked to my right, I indeed saw a lot of bags from students. Everyone was walking around with their laptops. I didn’t even waste time and decided to get back to the car. Why? Well because anyone that knows me will know that I always carry way too much stuff with me. Yes, I need my laptop, tablet and camera, and a reading book, and body lotion, and 10 different pens, and a snack, and mineral water and everything else I carry around! So anyways, I decided to just leave and find another place to work from.

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We then went to the Tayiba restaurant which is right next to the Botanical Gardens in Legon. I sat down there, had a drink and some yam chips, and worked on my thesis as I prepared for the interviews I would be conducting.

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The question I constantly get is whether entrepreneurship is really booming in Ghana. Well one thing I have noticed is that entrepreneurship is everywhere in Ghana. Literally at the roadside, you will find ‘entrepreneurs’. It all really depends on your definition of entrepreneurship. One thing I love about entrepreneurship is that there is not one right or wrong definition. In terms of Schumpeterian entrepreneurship (= innovative ideas that are turnt into high growth companies and basically change how things are done on the market), it is currently much lower in Ghana than in the Western world. Necessity drives a lot of people to set up a micro or small businesses to earn money. But you will also find entrepreneurs with really creative ideas, multiple businesses or with six-figure salaries.

After working hard at the Tayiba restaurant, I went to the Botanical gardens which is right next to it. I paid the entrance fee which is currently less than 10 cedis. But I was told that the Gardens are under construction so the rate might increase and there are different rates for different activities. So I proceeded and took out my camera to take pictures. I was then told by the accountant of the BG that I was not allowed to take pictures. Oops. I decided to make use of the opportunity and asked him for a quick tour of the BG and some background information. I soon found out that we had some things in common. For example, the Dutch government and Dutch partners are involved in the BG. And our parents come from towns that are not too far from each other. I managed to take a quick photo. Ssst, don’t tell anyone!

The Botanical Gardens is an awesome place to just relax, have a party or conference or bring your kids (there is a nice playground area). I have been told that in a few months time they will have boat rides, a canopy walk and even a basketball field so I will definitely come back for that!

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Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.

Day of departure: AMS – ACC

The day has finally arrived! I am traveling to Ghana for almost five weeks. Why you may ask. Is it for holidays? Yes, kind of. For university? Yes, kind of. For business? Yes, kind of. All work and no play would make Jill a dull girl. So even though my main goal is to do research in Ghana, I will also make sure I enjoy the weather, the food, and the hospitality of my people.

28th of March @ 13:30 – I arrived at Schiphol Airport excited and ready to start my journey to Accra. In general, I do not mind flying but I do not love it either. I mean let’s be real who really loves turbulence? Well not me. But I actually enjoyed this flight. I watched the movies Bon Bini Holland, Creed, and the Intern. These movies were so much fun to watch that I didn’t even have time to sleep. Another good thing was that there was no passenger sitting next to me on my right so I had extra space #teamwinning.

After our six hour flight, we had safely arrived at Kotoka Airport. If you have ever been in Ghana, you will know that the first thing you are greeted with is the smell and of course the heat and not to forget, my favorites, the mosquitoes. It is this unexplainable smell that screams ‘home’ to me. I was happy and satisfied and convinced that nothing could ruin my good mood. Nothing except for, the following, the exhaustively long lines for passport checks. Ghanaians (yes, this might be a generalisation) love to take their time when they are working. They tend to work at a much slower pace than I am used to and comfortable with. The biggest explanation (or excuse?) I can find for this is the warm weather. Nevertheless, after having travelled for hours, you don’t want to spend another hour waiting in line. Hmm, anyone else smell a business opportunity?

 

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So what is it exactly that brings me to Ghana?

I would say its the love I have for the country and its people. I might not have been born in Ghana but Ghana was definitely born within me. Once I found out I could do research or an internship anywhere in the world, it felt right for me to come home. I have the privilege of interviewing Ghanaian entrepreneurs and understanding the processes that are involved in their business decision making. In the process of learning and researching I hope to get inspired.

I will use this blog to share some of my experiences! Let me take you along on my journey….

 

Hugs & Kisses,

Jem.