Pause. Reflect. Restart.
As businesses around the world navigate the economic effects of a global pandemic, KAEME is determined to remain resilient in pursuing its mission.
Local and natural! Freda Obeng-Ampofo would have it no other way.
As long as the owner of Ghanaian cosmetics line KAEME can remember, she has been using shea butter and black soap (roasted cocoa pods, plantain bark and coconut oil) as her only two care products.
Interested in finding ways to kick it up a notch, teenage Freda started giving the products her own touch. With success!
People would stop her on the streets of Guatemala and France to ask how she managed to have such smooth skin. Over the years, her friends were excited about her cosmetics gifts for birthdays or weddings – and demanded more. Even though she had a steady job with the EU delegation in Accra, the idea of starting her own business persisted.
In early 2016, Freda hired a brand strategist to set her business concept apart and took KAEME online. She set up a website, used social media and produced a short video that got over 28,000 views in only 24 hours.
A few years later, a physical store followed in Accra, next to product placements in Lagos, Cotonou and Abidjan. Business was going well. Early in 2020, KAEME’s founder and chief mixer had her goals set for the year.
This is how the majority of small businesses – who create 70% of all jobs worldwide – feel. Kaeme had lost approximately 95% of its revenues since the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Accra. The store closed its doors mid-March and Freda had to send her staff home.
And there were issues with logistics.
Despite being a well-established online shop that should ideally withstand physical lockdowns, the shop owner was facing logistical problems. She was not able to ship any orders as logistics providers shut down. The lockdown meant practically zero sales for close to six weeks.
But Freda kept on paying her employees.
With COVID-19, deliveries from abroad were delayed.
The pandemic showed that importing materials is unsustainable in a crisis. KAEME had to put critical procurement decisions on hold after undertaking a thorough risk assessment.
Using local packaging was unfortunately not an option when first launching KAEME, but Freda knew going local was the right choice for the long-term. The lockdown confirmed this.
The 35-year-old would like to source her packaging material locally and sustainably. Options are collaborating with other local businesses, or even building a manufacturing factory through an association of cosmetics producers.
Finding local solutions would not only de-risk business but also add value to the whole production chain at home.
And that’s not all.
Freda would like to trade freely in the sub-continent. She could then export her products to Benin, Nigeria, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire without facing trade regulations.
Early in July, after the government lifted restrictions in Accra, the number of COVID-19 cases rose again. KAEME has decided to take its time reopening its store and ensured protective health measures are in place.
The business only allows one salesperson and one customer in the store at a time, with hand washing and sanitizing protocols. Freda constantly reminds her staff to remain cautious.
Even though KAEME’s online sales have slumped, maintaining an active virtual presence has allowed the brand to engage customers. They were doing so through Instagram Live, checking in with customers on a regular basis, and simply keeping in touch to show they care.
For one, Freda referred to the 15-Point-Action Plan drafted by the International Trade Centre, which gives tips to small businesses on how to remain resilient in times of crisis. Additionally, Freda cited support from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) and the Ghana Food and Drugs Administration.
Moreover, KAEME joined a community of entrepreneurs who are like-minded in producing local, high-quality products.
Considering the logistical problems around COVID-19, the online platform THRIVE TOGETHER serves as an ideal one-stop shop where customers can buy from different brands by only using one channel, one delivery.
Adapting KAEME's business plan was another essential step. For KAEME, surviving the lockdown meant finding opportunities to work with others and doing things differently, for example looking at diversifying their products, working on different recipes and potentially partnering with big businesses, for example, by offering sanitizers in bulk.
Uncertainty and scenario planning will be the norm, not the exception, explains Freda, and it will involve more creative thinking to engage customers.
If you had spoken to me in May about offering Christmas sales, I would have answered differently. Our plan is constantly evolving and our customers can look forward to an enhanced version of KAEME very soon.
Despite having lived in the United States, France, Hong Kong and the United Republic of Tanzania, Freda never forgot where her heart is – in Ghana.
And this is what KAEME stands for: The Ghanaian name means ‘remember me’, but for Freda it also stands for pure ingredients, healthy living, nostalgia and warm feelings.
May that feeling never cease!