Sierra Leone: A year of unemployment, self taught designer Ramona Sankoh launched MONAJ fashion co.

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Almost a million young Sierra Leoneans are Unemployed or Underemployed but a new generation of young entrepreneurs are on the rise.  Ramona Sankoh, 25, could not get a job a full year after graduating from the University of Sierra Leone, Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) with a degree in Applied Accountancy in 2013. Although she now works for the National Revenue Authority (NRA), she was inspired to start her own business in 2014 after struggling to land permanent employment.

She founded MONAJ, an fashion accessories start up for men and women by watching online video tutorials. MONAJ sells bags, jewelry, sandals, purses and more. Ms. Sankoh sources the raw materials such as hooks and chains from an online store in China and the textiles she gets locally from Sackville Street and elsewhere.

Not wanting to rest on her laurels, Ms. Sankoh continues to perfect her craft. Last year she took her online studies off line and spent a month studying production and design at Arts Center in Accra, a market for artisans and crafts in Ghana.

The prices for MONAJ accessories range from SLL 40,000-SLL 150,000 ($5-$15) Ms. Sankoh delivers all the orders herself and takes payment in cash, upon delivery.

The life of a young entrepreneur in Sierra Leone is not without its challenges. She has to balance her time between her salaried job, and her small business. And then there is the struggle to convince local Sierra Leoneans to purchase their African accessories from a local brand. She says many people just don’t believe that a Sierra Leonean can do something like this as good as those made in say Ghana or Nigeria. Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora seem to have a lot more faith in the made in Sierra Leone brand, MONAJ had an order for a 100 bags from one client in the US.

She is not the only local small business to face these challenges, and that’s why she is a part of a growing network of female entrepreneurs who support each other, and spread the word about each others’ businesses.

In the next five years, Ms. Sankoh aspires to have established business relationships with stockists around the country to increase her sales and distribution. She would also like to train others in who may be interested in learning the trade.

Want to get in touch with Ramona and place an order? Follow MONAJ on Instagram @MONAJ247, and Facebook @MONAJ.