THERE WAS a time, about four years ago, when stationary companies were on the decline and struggling to make profits.
Things have changed in the last 12 months, however, with big reatilers and small businesses alike seeing an increase in sales.
But nowhere has the change been more noticeable than the continent of Africa and the nation of Ghana.
The West African country has seen an increased spend on stationary of around 27 per cent in the last five years and it spends over 153 million dollars on paper a4 alone.
And that’s where entrepreneur Christopher Osei – Frimpong comes in. The 32-year-old has founded of the world’s first global African-owned stationary company, A4Africa.
Having visited Ghana back in 2014, the self-proclaimed “proud member of the Ghanaian diaspora”, discovered a gaping hole in the stationary market in Ghana for quality, but affordable paper.
“There are two things with the African market, they have an issue where they can get cheap products from China, or they get expensive products from the West, there’s no middle ground,” Christopher told to The Young Empire.
“So what we’ve been able to do is to source products that are competitive, but offer good quality at the same time. That’s the biggest advantage we have over the competition.”
Balancing good quality products at a bargain price can be tricky, is it a business model that can be sustained in the global stationary market? According to Christopher it can, by not being greedy.
“The reason why we can be affordable is that we are not trying to make the maximum amount of profit,” he explained.
“The Stationary business is very lucrative, the mark ups some companies put on their products can be quite high. It really all just depends on how much you want to make and whether the market is flexible to your prices.”
“I can offer a product that is quality, but may not be making as much, but the volume is large, so I am making more money in the long run. “
Like many companies A4Africa was created out of necessity, a need for the Ghanaian stationary market and more importantly, Christopher’s own need to be his own boss.
“I never really liked working for anyone,” admits the South London l-born businessman.
“I kept saying to my colleagues that I wanted to do something in Ghana. At first I thought I might go and sell photocopying machines, but when I went to Ghana to do my research my uncle found holes with my plan straight away.
“He told me the most successful businesses in Ghana work because they buy and sell products that don’t need maintenance, unlike photocopiers. And that’s when he told me there was a big supply for a4 paper and it was something I kept hearing from people I met in Ghana.”
In an little as two years, Christopher has gone from quitting his day job to creating a global company, one which he hopes will “honor and empower Africans”, particularly with its charitable arm, Camp Africa.
“Camp Africa project volunteers will work closely with Ghanaian children teaching them leadership and entrepreneurship skills. In 2016 we also aim to support 100 children with enrolment in to schools.“
So what are Christopher’s top tips to starting, building and maintaining a successful brand?
Don’t quit your job straight away: That’s what I did and it wasn’t wise. I feel like when people get an idea, they get excited, as they should, but you need to make sure your business is generating enough income for you to live on beforehand.
Work hard and the money will follow: Don’t be disheartened if you’re not making money at the start, it’s so easy to give up, but the perseverance pays of and if you’re business is good enough and you work hard it will earn money.
Stick with your goals, but be fiexible: It’s good to remember that you can change the journey of your plan, but you should always have the same end goal in mind.
You need to believe in yourself: It’s important that you have people who speak life into you. I have friends and they way they encourage me at times is scary. It’s so important to have faith and can’t walk by sight. If it was easy to be successful, everyone would be.
Your vision has to be far greater than your resources: Dream big! If your goal doesn’t challenge you, you may not work hard at it. Your vision has to scare you.
For more information on A4Africa check out @A4AfricaUK or http://www.a4africa.com
WORDS: Hazelann Williams