In continuation to my previous post about my experience in Ghana, people have asked me what happened to Margaret and her business pitch.
Margaret, a woman from the Upper East Region of Ghana – one of the poorest parts of the country, became my roommate in Uniterra’s International Seminar of Women in Entrepreneurship. I was tasked with helping her prepare a business pitch of her cleaning supplies social enterprise company for a local Ghanian investors competition. Now, Margaret doesn’t own a computer, and she had never heard the word “pitch.”
What transpired was pure magic. With hard-to-understand English but an unbreakable conviction, she pitched to a crowd of university-educated spectators and top-level bankers and investors. Although she did not place in the top three, she won the hearts of everyone. She celebrated as if she had won and rejoiced in the fact that herself – a poor woman who endured homelessness, abuse and domestic slavery in one of the poorest parts of Africa – delivered a pitch in Ghana’s most acclaimed investors conference. “I did not win the money, but I won recognition,” she said with tears in her eyes as she continued to tell me how she’s been rejected her entire life and has always felt invisible.
Margaret’s transformation in the two weeks we worked together on her business was amazing. Her newfound confidence gave her the courage to stand in front of hotel managers and other potential clients to promote her cleaning products. I helped redesign her branding, product labels and set her up with a domain for her website.
As I was designing her business card with the new branding, I asked for her e-mail address to include in the card. My jaw dropped when she asked “what is that?” I realized that in the world of business we assume things and even take them for granted. In my excitement of seeing her blossom, I forgot that her reality is way different than mine. However, as Ghana’s economy grows, so does access to telecommunication. Everyone has a cell phone. Margaret may not have a computer, but she owns a smart phone.
My thinking changed from “How Can I Help Her Business Grow Fast?” to “How Can I Empower Her to Use the Resources She Has to Help Her Business Grow Sustainably?” I took a step back. I looked at her smartphone and deconstructed it in my head and began constructing it as a powerful business tool right there in her hands. We took time to create her an e-mail account through Gmail and spent a good part of the day practicing how to send, reply, forward and attach files to a message. I showed her where to look for new e-mail notifications and explained the importance of looking at it throughout the day as her business gains bigger clients. After e-mail, we did a social media introduction. She is now on Facebook – hola! Her face lit up when she started seeing people from her past appear on her feed requesting her to “friend” her. She cried as she read the comments on my own feed overtime I posted about her. The messages of love and support from total strangers was something she couldn’t fathom. Facebook pages for businesses became a little harder to explain, but useful nontheless.
Piece by piece, she learned as we constructed her smartphone into the powerful business tool we all take for granted. Piece by piece her self-esteem and confidence grew to the point where a few hours before I returned to Canada she asked “don’t forget to e-mail me the files for the business card and product labels you made!” I felt like a proud mother hen.
Every night Margaret would spend hours talking about her past. Slowly, those chats turned into plans for the future – of growing her company and helping needy girls living in the same conditions she once did. “Karla, where were you when I was crying in the streets?”
I was preparing myself to meet you. I am honoured to call you my Ghanian sister.
Have you ever shared or been shared knowledge that has made a huge impact in your or someone else’s life? It doesn’t matter how “small” we may think the piece of information is, you never know who you will help grow. Let’s be generous with one another.