Your Name: Yaa - Priscilla Birago
What do you do?: I am a Founder/ CEO
What's the name of your company/organization: Soko Bags Ltd
How did you start your company/organization?: The idea started from an experience I encountered during my 2013 trip to Ghana. During my time there, I found myself buying a lot of street vendor food and one thing that I notice very quickly was the use of plastic bags as “food containers”. I also started to see a lot of old plastic bags embedded inside the ground everywhere I went. It was then, it occurred to me that the use of plastic bags in Ghana is part of the everyday life for many people and is not seen as a problem. However, I saw the use of plastic bags as a serious threat to my country and the next generation to come. Upon my return to Canada, I started to think of different alternatives to rectify the issue and this was how idea of Soko Bags was born.
Starting the company was not an easy task. I found it very difficult to execute and implement such business in Ghana when I was not residing there permanently. However, in Jan 2016, I decided to eliminate all the doubts I had and I took the risk to start Soko Bags in Ghana with the help of some friends. Although Soko Bags is a startup company, I have a big vision for it; the ultimate goal is to manufacture environmental friendly bags to help eliminate plastic bags in Ghana. In addition, to support women in Ghana through gainful employment. So far, we have employed about five women in the company and have helped them to provide and support their family. My aim is to make a bigger and positive impact on the environment and to provide employment for women in Ghana and Africa as a whole.
Tell us a bit more about your company/organization: Soko Bags Ltd is a startup manufacturing company based in Ghana. We produce environmentally sustainable products to solve environmental, economic and business issues. Our ultimate goal is to positively impact the socioeconomic status of women in Africa through gainful employment, while improving the environmental conditions in Africa through providing eco-friendly products. We produce products such as cotton bag (tote bags), non-woven bags, paper bags for food and shopping, and jute bags. All our products are biodegradable and non-plastic.
How did your education and previous experiences help you to become what you are today?: My education and previous experience definitely shaped me to become who I am today. Through my experience I have become an excellent listener, communicator, leader, risk taker, mentor and a social entrepreneur.
Is there anything else you are working on at this time?: I have been running a non-profit organization called Hands of a Hero Foundation (HOHF) in Ghana and Canada for the past 6 years. My projects within HOHF are ongoing in both countries. Apart from the above, I am currently working two major projects that will be launching this year. I will share when the time is right.
What are the top qualities you would require in someone who wants to work with/for you?: Some of the qualities I always look for when someone wants to work with me is communication skills and interpersonal skills. I am a big believer in giving people the chance and opportunity to learn. I do not expect anyone I work to have a lot of experience or a higher education. I am always willing to train and mentor these who are open minded, self-motivated and willing to learn. I have worked with many people with no experience and have helped them gain vast skillsets for their future endeavors.
What advice would you give to students, young professionals and aspiring changemakers/entrepreneurs?:
Advice for Students: Seek volunteer and internship opportunities that will help you gain the skillset to help launch your career. Internship and volunteer opportunities are a great way to meet new people in your interested field and also identify your strengths and areas need to develop. Such opportunities also allows you to network and gain insights in the workforce.
Advice for Young Professionals: Seek a mentor who is willing to help you progress on a professional level. Don’t wait for opportunity to knock on your door. You must go out, search, ask and find; and you will discover the right opportunity that will advance you in your career. Don’t be afraid to try something new; have an open mind; and be ready to learn, unlearn and relearn.
Advice for Aspiring Change Makers/ Entrepreneurs: Don’t be afraid to take the risk and make mistakes! When it all fails, embrace your mistakes, learn from them and try again until you succeed. As a change maker and an entrepreneur, you must remember that success is not about the destination but the experience from your journey.
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