One year ago, I began my own personal odyssey when I embraced the life of an entrepreneur. It has been a year of hard-fought successes equally rivaled by inevitable failures. And while any entrepreneur would tell a similar tale, each journey is taken through wild and unknown territory. Entrepreneurs begin where the charted maps end – but this is also where adventure lies.
In the Spring of 2016, TecBridge put the wind in our sails to make way for a new world. They provided aid in creating a well-structured business plan and were abundant with knowledgeable and experienced individuals to offer guidance. On April 28th my business partner, Randy, and I won the business plan competition. One month later we found ourselves on a bus in Ghana traveling from Accra to Kumasi, where we would attempt to implement months of work and well-developed business strategy. It would also be on this visit that we would soon learn that nothing (and I do mean nothing) ever goes according to plan.
Hence came my new life philosophy – “No good story started with “Everything went smoothly.”” That week was ridden with waking up to cockroaches, accidentally eating maggots, long, hot bus rides, a short trip to a Ghanaian hospital, and so much more. But we left the country with a book-worth of tales, smiles on our faces, and astonishment at the foundation we had just laid for Aya Fair Trade.
Month by month we developed our products, sold the stock of bags we had brought back with us, visited street fairs and craft shows, learned more than I care to admit about imports, read endless texts and memoirs from previous entrepreneurs, met with some of the most wonderful people NEPA has to offer for start-ups, and crafted an ever-growing web of network connections. I will never forget the day we received our second shipment of products. Unloading fifteen-hundred bags into my living room is a spectacle by itself, but knowing that each bag was hand crafted by one of our sixteen seamstresses and that the sale of every bag would directly fund the education of thirty-seven bright and talented children, this was the first time I truly understood what we were accomplishing.
As I write this, I am flying back from Ghana once again just shy of a year from our first trip. In the past week, we have met with seamstresses asking when the next shipment of bags would be, parents grateful for those in the US who supported the seamstresses and gave their children a chance to stay in school, we met the women from whom we purchase our materials, and visited the headmasters and mistresses of the schools we support. While our company is still very young, it was rejuvenating to see the impacts already spreading through the small community in Ghana.
The journey has been far from easy, but it will always be people who are the heart and soul of what we do. People are the breath of Aya and it is to those people who I want to express my deepest gratitude. With your support, we have literally changed the world. That change might be small right now, but it is a change, it is real, and it is growing. We hope that you enjoy these accomplishments with Aya as we go forward. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
For more information, including new products and upcoming trade show locations and dates, visit Aya’s website.