December 8, 2022


Sierra Leone Entertainment News

IWD: 10 Women Founders From Sierra Leone & Ghana You Should Know

Meet Five Women Founders from Ghana Who Scaled For Success

Yvette Ansah and I share laughs and stories over coffee in Accra, March 2020 (Pre-Pandemic)

Ten years ago, intoxicated by the “Africa Rising” propaganda at your favorite Ivy League grad schools, I left New York for the second time to return to West Africa. I chose Ghana’s capital Accra for my second coming to build my new post-grad life. In the decade that has passed, I have seen the rise and fall of many business leaders and witnessed Accra’s transformation into the December parte-after-parte destination for the spawn of the Afropolitans. While I turn my nose up as the cost of living skyrockets in Accra, one thing keeps me in Ghana––the drive and rise of Ghana’s Women Entrepreneurs. 

For this International Women’s Day, I’m celebrating the women entrepreneurs in Ghana who, with grit, grace, and vision, show what is possible when women decide to build. I’ve watched countless women start ventures in the last decade and scale them right in front of my eyes. What I’ve witnessed matches entrepreneurship reports that rank Ghana as one of the best places for businesswomen in Africa.

Here are five Ghanaian women founders whose growth will inspire you!

  1. Yvette Ansah, Cafe Kwae

The first time I met Yvette was when she walked over to my mom’s house to deliver a salad. I later learned that she was a lawyer who had given up a career working in corporate law in the US to return home to Ghana. She started making salads first for herself, then for family and friends. She would send out weekly menus via emails and Whatsapp, and before long, offices were ordering en masse. Then, the brand was Lovefreshbites, a home-based fresh salad, and sandwich food service. Before long, the demand grew more considerable than she could handle. When an opportunity came to rent space from the newly built One Airport building Yvette decided to run a restaurant. With the support of friends and family, she got the capital to rent the space, and today Cafe Kwae is one of a few restaurants in Accra where you have to say a prayer or call in a reservation in advance. The menu is fresh and delicious, and the ambiance is light with colorful. Today, Yvette runs two restaurants; the flagship Cafe behind Holiday Inn and Kwae Terrace, which opened March 2020 as the pandemic hit. Like most GeyHeys, she doesn’t like to toot her own horn, but Yvette truly is an inspiration, and every time I am lucky enough to catch her at work, I bask in her light. 

2. Lydia Forson, Kinky Matters

M.anifest introduced me to Lydia at a house party ten years ago. As is often the case for Scorpios, she and I hit it off instantly. I was a newbie to the Ghana film industry. So when M.anigest said she was an actress, I didn’t know he meant award-winning talent. I would get to see Lydia on-screen in her self-produced film––A Letter To Adam. She has a lot of range when she performs, and acting comes easy. I’ve watched Lydia grow outside of the box so perfectly made to contain African women in entertainment with a ferocity that often has her trending more for digital activism than for movies. She has taken on bullies and served them body positivity instead. She isn’t afraid to take a stand no matter how unpopular. 

As if that wasn’t enough, five years ago, Lydia (who has been natural since we met) decided to launch a startup to make and sell hair products. She sent me a tub of Kinky Matters’ first product––the secret recipe. She was mixing with her mom in their kitchen.

Today Kinky Matters has expanded its line of products from the original secret recipe to include oils for men and women, soaps, shampoo, and conditioner. Their products are available online and in Accra, Kumasi, and beyond.  What I love about Lydia is that she is unapologetically disruptive. I never know what she will do next, but I always expect brilliance and bravery.

3. Abynnah Sekyiamah, CleanEats

I met Abynnah and her sister Nana when I invited them to participate in a fashion workshop I planned for Printex at the African Regent Hotel. They had co-founded the African print brand––Maksi in 2009, making clothes for men and women.  Abynnah was the creative director. Several years after I met Abynnah, she enrolled in a part-time MBA program. During her MBA, Abynnah made other life changes––she lost a lot of fat after following a healthy, nutritious diet. That’s when she got the idea for Clean Eats, a fast-food restaurant to take the guesswork of eating healthy. Clean Eats makes salads, juices, and sandwiches. Once the flagship store in Tema was up and running, she opened a second branch in Accra’s trendy East Legon suburb. In 2021, Clean Eats opened a third branch in the bustling suburb of Haatso. What gets me about Abynnah is that she has no idea how amazing all this is. Who scales a healthy fast food brand from one to three branches in an African city in eight years then takes their star employee on an all-expense-paid trip to Dubai on holiday? Abynnah did that! What a [email protected]

4. Kuorkor Dzani, Twist & Locs

The first time I met Kuorkor was in 2013, at a networking event hosted by Afua Osei back when she was doing SavvyMadame. I was doing media coverage for GoWoman Magazine, and Kuorkor was there to teach students and young Ghanaian women in the audience how to style their natural hair. She opened Twist and Locs in 2009. I didn’t know how much of a gift her natural hair salon was until I decided to go from bald to fro. Luckily by then, Kuorkor had opened a new branch in East Legon. The service is impeccable. When you make an appointment on their website, they attend to you within ten minutes of arrival. When you sit down on the chair, the stylists treat natural hair with the required tenderness. Before they put any product in your hair, they ask. When they wash your hair, they let you know if the water will be hot or cold before it comes out of the faucet. And whenever you give feedback for improvement, they listen. It is no surprise that Kuorkor announced the third branch’s launch on Spintex Road last year. Growth is unstoppable when you’ve supported and trained your staff to the level of consistency that Kuorkor has accomplished over the past decade. 

5. Regina Honu, Soronko Academy

I met Regina at a Global Shapers event in Accra in 2013. In June that year, I sent a photographer to KNUST because she was hosting a coding workshop for high school students. News of high school girls learning to write Javascript, I wanted to feature in GoWoman Magazine. Some 40 girls attended the first Tech Needs Girls event that Regina hosted. Her passion for making tech accessible and inclusive was why she walked away from a job in the IT department of a local bank. As the MD of the newly founded Soronko Solutions, Regina could develop applications for clients and pass on tech skills to the next generation of Ghana’s women in tech. Fast forward to December 2018, and I’m in Johannesburg for a Gates Foundation Goalkeepers conference. Who walks on stage to talk about making tech, coding, and digital skills accessible to girls and women? Regina! She now runs an academy with 10,000 girls, women, and youth trained with tech and digital skills from that first Tech Needs Girls workshop in Kumasi. She is globally respected and sought-after for her insights on tech and inclusion. 

Here are five social impact founders doing amazing work in Sierra Leone whose organizations deserve your support this year.

Over the past decade, Sierra Leonean women have emerged with innovative solutions for local challenges. For this International Women’s Day we must #breakthebias not just as it relates to gender but also the bias that prevents organizations led and founded by women from the global South from accessing the resources they need to scale their impact. 

6. Peagie Foday, PW Scholarship Fund 

Peagie Foday, Founder, Peagie Woobay Scholarship Fund

Peagie has spent the past decade destigmatizing teen pregnancy in Sierra Leone. Through her foundation, she has provided hundreds of scholarships for girls who would otherwise become dropouts after giving birth. Beyond that, she runs several daycare centers for children of teen moms so that these vulnerable teens have safe places to leave their kids when they go back to school. On the one hand, she is responsible for re-enrolling teenage moms in school and making child care and early learning available to their children. I mean what more can I say but bow! 

7. Yakama Manty Jones, Yak Jones Foundation

Yakama Jones, Founder, Yak Jones Foundation

Yakama collects used paper from local businesses so kindergarteners in Sierra Leone will have access to notebooks. For the past six years, she has created and donated mini-libraries to schools educating children from low-resource communities. In schools that don’t have the resources but where there is a need she provides them with reading coaches to help early learners get a head start developing their literacy skills.  In many cases, the picture books she donates are the first copies of books that the recipients have ever known. She isn’t just donating books, she is making sure kids can read them.

8. Janice Williams, Sudu

Janice Williams, Founder, Sudu

Janice saw Sierra Leone’s broken informal foster system that makes it easy for child trafficking and abuse and said not on my watch. She finds safe families willing to foster children. Before she places a child with a family they are vetted both with a medical exam, and they must provide recommendations. Once her org places children with the families they conduct spot checks too. They also make sure each family gets child support. No child placed with a foster family has ever been harmed or run away. Janice is on a mission to protect orphans and safeguard orphans. 

9. Mariama Kamara, Smiling Through Light

Mariama Kamara, Founder, Smiling Through Light

Mariama saw how rural traders struggled to trade at night and decided that they needed access to clean sustainable energy. She makes it possible for women to leave dangerous kerosene tin lamps for solar lamps. Her startup sells solar lamps to market women on credit allowing them to lease and later own. Not just that, she has also created clean energy jobs for women and youth. When she is not at the frontlines with her team engaging traditional community leaders about the benefits of solar, she is advocating for energy access for rural women on global platforms. 

10. Bidemi Carrol, The Learning Foundation

Bidemi Carrol, Co-Founder, The Learning Foundation

Bidemi is on a mission to change learning outcomes in Sierra Leone by providing teachers with the skills they need to support early learners from the first to third grade. Through training of trainers her org coaches teachers in proven techniques to help children learn to read. They use bottle stoppers, books, phonemes, alliteration, whatever allows teachers who love to teach to get better at it. She is also equipping and building libraries in schools and communities to create safe dedicated spaces for learning and exploration. In the libraries supported by her org, 70% of students have borrowed a book or accessed a learning resource.

If you’ve read this far thank you! Happy International Women’s Day! The best way to empower, and celebrate these women (and everything else this day is supposed to achieve) is to support the things that matter to them. Do business with them, amplify them, and when necessary mobilize resources for them.