Mumtreprenuer: A women who takes care of home and handles business. Just like many mothers, they are often asked: “How do you balance it all?” The shopping, the dinner, the washing, the freshly ironed school uniforms, the homework and the school run. Not to mention the sleepless nights after a nightmare or an upset stomach…phew! I have to salute every mother who has put their child’s needs before their own. The mums who have hustled and worked countless hours just to provide the best they can for their offspring. The mums who have been brave enough to take a step and put their talents and passions to good use to build a legacy and inspire and challenge people at the same time.
One of those lovely women is Amma Osei. A young mother to Ornella, 2 months, and founder and owner of shoe and accessory line Sarfo. Read on as she tells us how it’s done.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Amma. I studied media production at DeMonfort University, Leicester. I’m a new mum and since November 2011, I’ve been running a small business called Sarfo. I customise shoes, bags and accessories with African Prints. I’ve customised pieces for public figures such as Pauline Long, who is the co-founder of the BEFFTA awards. I’ve also customised for African TV presenters and I also have my usual customers who want things customised for special occasions. I’ve also taken part in fashion shows to promote Sarfo. When I fell pregnant I took a little break.
Tell me the concept behind Sarfo.
The business was originally called Customized by Amma, but I didn’t like the name and decided to re-brand everything and start operating properly. I named it after my brother who died six years ago. He was a unique and elegant man who took pride in his appearance. That’s what my brand is about. Being unique and wearing the best statement shoes and accessories that people will look at and say: “Wow! That looks great with your outfit”. That’s why my slogan is: Feel Unique. Be an Inspiration.
I take old shoes or new shoes and customise them with Kente and Ankara cloth or diamantes. Financially, it’s been quite challenging. Marketing Sarfo among competitors has also been difficult. I always have to think about how I can make my brand extraordinary to the average customer. Apart from that, I enjoy every moment of it. I get really excited when I see customers embracing my product and making good comments about it.
Tell me about the beginning.
I’d finished uni and didn’t know what to do with myself. I was bored at home and started making earrings. Then I made myself birthday shoes with diamantes on them and everyone went crazy. Then I covered another shoe with vibrant African print. My sister ordered a pair for her best friend’s birthday gift. When my sister’s friend started wearing the shoes, her aunty saw them and it just went on from there. That’s how I started getting customers.
Talk me through the process of making a bag and a shoe
Everytime I’m making a product, I try to learn new ways of being efficient. I initially used a glue gun to attach the print to the shoes or accessories and I occasionally still do. I just realise that it takes me too long to do so I’ve been looking for different types of glue and methods. The more time you’re wasting, the more money you lose. You have to think of the customer and getting a service to them.
Recently, I’ve discovered the glue that cobblers use. It was introduced to me by a lady in Ghana, she does a similar thing to me. After a five-minute chat with her, I was able to gain experience and new methods. I occasionally draw inspiration from YouTube and from my mum and sister. My mum is my biggest critic. If something isn’t right, she’ll tell me.
I take my time so that the shoes and accessories look as professional as possible. I don’t want a customer to report back to me with any problems. If my services aren’t good enough, they’re going to assume I’m a bad shoemaker and won’t recommend me to people. My business is based on word of mouth.
From start to finish, how long does it take to customise shoes and accessories?
If someone needs something done as soon as possible. I can get it done within two days. It all depends on what a customer wants and how they want it. I try my best to make the best out of whatever a customer gives me. I’m here to make items look brand new again.
If a customer shows me a design on Facebook, I always try to do my own take on it. Often customers will bring me their own shoes or accessories to be customised or they’ll see a design I’ve previously done and want the exact same thing. In this case, I’ll purchase the shoes or accessories. But it’s more cost effective if a customer buys their own items.
Since starting up, what has the response been like?
Thank God for word of mouth. Before I was pregnant, I had two or three orders per month. Which was very good for me. I can be quite shy about marketing myself but I am looking to expand and network more in the near future. If you want a business to be successful, you have to be confident in telling people why they need your services. So far, I’m happy with what I’ve been able to do.
You said that you’ve learnt you’re not so forward in marketing yourself and that it needs to change. What else have you learnt about the fundamentals of business?
Don’t be afraid to state your price. If you’re confident in your product, you shouldn’t be afraid to take money. I have often put friendship before business, which has made it hard to state how much things are going to cost. Stand your ground and be bold otherwise people will walk over you. That’s one thing I’ve learnt and need to continue doing.
How has becoming a mother affected how see SARFO?
I now think a lot about how I can improve the business and make it become my main source of income. Becoming a mother has motivated me to expand because I want my daughter to see her Mum as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. I don’t have that kind of role model in my own family, so if my daughter can see that she can be a businesswoman and work hard like me, it will be a good story for her to stand on when she grows up.
How would you encourage other young mums who feel that they can’t manage a business and motherhood at the same time?
Your children are your motivation. They come first. Are you just going to sit down and fold your arms? Think about the future when your business is booming and your children can work for you. Your business can also be their inheritance. Careers are hard to come by now. People are graduating from uni with nothing to fall back on. If your children gain experience from working with you, when they venture out into the big wide world, they’ll have more prospects. As a young mum, if you want to have your own business, don’t be afraid or procrastinate. Be strong, lift yourself up and go.
What are your future plans for SARFO?
Eventually, I want to be able to get some of my designs in stores. I also want to have my own boutique where people can come and feel special about purchasing customised shoes. I also want to expand on my designs and work with other materials as well as African print. Hopefully I can work with other manufacturers to come up with new designs. The sky’s the limit.
Find and Follow SARFO on:
Facebook: Sar FO