Afia and Owusu Bonsu, Ghanaian-American Entrepreneurs, On Operating Transnational Businesses During COVID-19Jun 13, 2021 09:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo
African diasporans who operate international businesses have experienced unique and intricate challenges during COVID-19. Owusu and Afia Bonsu, Philadelphia- -based merchants who sell eclectic items from Ghana and beyond, overcame significant hurdles to manage the challenges of COVID-19 and emerged even stronger. FunTimes sat down with this couple to learn about their struggles and triumphs during COVID-19, as well as multi-cultural solidarity in Philadelphia, and advice for entrepreneurs of the African diaspora.
Owusu, who recently moved to Philadelphia from Ghana, describes his experience doing international business in Ghana, his transition to Philly, and how vending has helped him balance out the setbacks.
(Owusu’s Made in Ghana Sneakers)
“Now, I do mostly vending, which is helping immensely. I have done four vending events in the past two months, which have been prosperous, including the Uhuru Flea Market. Currently, I am booked to vend in places like New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and here in Philly until July. Event organizers are also contacting me to sell."
Afia says although COVID-19 caused a sharp decline in her sales, it motivated her to create and continue her international business endeavors. Afia says:
“With COVID-19, my business slowed way down. I went from multiple sales per day to maybe 2 per month. However, I took that time to experiment with different formulas for my luxury vegan skincare brand, with the intention to make products that would stand out from the rest, since the skincare market is so saturated now.”
“I also went back to importing art, jewelry, and fabrics from West Africa. After the COVID travel ban was lifted, my husband immigrated to the US from Ghana, bringing his fabric business with him. Both businesses are doing a lot better. Also now that we are in the summer months, my husband and I have been vending at outdoor markets to help get more exposure, which wasn't possible during the lockdown.”
Although Afia and Owusu have not received any COVID-19 benefits, they have built positive relationships with African diasporans in Philly and beyond, and that, combined with their hard work and innovation, has helped their businesses to survive.
Owusu notes Woodland Avenue in the SouthWest area as a hub for the African diaspora community in Philadelphia. When describing his discovery that Black people in the US are stereotyped as rude are untrue, Owusu says:
“Before you come to the States, people will tell you that Black people are rude, but when I meet Black people they greet me, especially when I meet older people. Blacks here have been helpful. Some people even buy from me when they see I am from Ghana.”
Owusu advises entrepreneurs to consider delivering products or to start a delivery service, as most people get items like groceries and household items delivered in the age of COVID, and to create strategies to succeed for the future. “If you don’t plan for the future it will be more difficult. It’s not easy, but plan”, he says. Afia advises entrepreneurs to “take the downtime and brainstorm about what you can do better, whether it be a new website, redesigning your product labels, launching a new product, etc.”
This article has been made possible by the Independence Public Media Foundation.
This article brought to you in Partnership with Broke in Philly
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ( www.asieduasimprint.blog ).
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