Viviana Epua Dansowaa created her own brand of travel items when she was 31. Her products – bags, sleeping masks, belts – are all made in Ghana.
Viviana’s needle slowly goes through the pigmented fabric. The thread weaves points are invisible, but they put the warm-colored pieces together. Soon, the little wallet Viviana is shaping up will be finished. Several accessories, like neck pillows, sleeping masks and wallets are dismissed all over the table.
All day long, the young woman sews in her living room. Two students are working right next to her. They are here for the summer: they need this job to pay for their school fees. Together, they make about twenty little wallets a day.
It has been a year since Viviana Epua Dansowaa transformed her Osu house into a manufacturing workshop of travel items for her brand, Liebe by Viviana. Viviana sells her handmade products on Accra markets once or twice a month. Her business does not have an online marketplace, but the craftswoman promotes her products on Instagram, where her clients can contact her.
A market to seize
Her products cost between 10 and 70 cedis each (about 1,5 to 11 euros), so they are more expensive than the « made-in-China » products that are widely sold on Accra markets. « Most of my clients are expats, because I don’t have any shop yet. Ghanaians don’t buy that type of products for the moment, » she explains.
Why did she decide to specialize in travelling items? Simply because « no one is doing it in Ghana », she claims. This young woman never planned to go abroad. « I’m not afraid of failing, but if I do, I don’t want it to happen elsewhere than in my home country. »
Her business is not profitable yet, but the accounts are balanced. Viviana invested all of her savings, without any help from banks or from her family. Today, she must work as a masseuse and a sports coach to make a living. « I train children once a week, it’s well-paid. And to get money faster, I sell packs of massages, 10 for 200 cedis. »
Reminding old pleasures
Before working as a craftswoman, Viviana practiced athletics competition and studied theater at the Accra University. But seven years ago, she had to stop running because of a cruciate ligament. She also realized she was not interested in theater anymore. Her future was unclear. So this Kumasi girl decided to re-engage with what she loved as a child: making small objects.
« I’ve always been talented with my hands, » she remembers. « It all started because I wanted to please my friends. When I was invited to a birthday, I didn’t need to buy a present, I made it myself! » Logically, her relatives encouraged her to sell her own products.
Progressively, this idea caught on, and Viviana’s self-confidence grew. She eventually gave birth to her brand, Liebe by Viviana (a name in memory of her best friend). « She was the most important person for me, after my grandmother. She believed in me and made me brave. »
« Women are strong, and they prove it »
Viviana Epua Dansowaa devotes her energy into developing her craft. « My number one priority is my business. For husband and children, we’ll see later. Or not! » She belongs to a new generation of Ghanaian women, who reject the traditional nuclear family model and do not hesitate to start a business.
In 2013, 46% of Ghanaian entrepreneurs were women, according to the Mastercard index of women entrepreneurship. « Women are strong, and they prove it! » Viviana laughs. « It gives me hope and happiness, » she adds.
This entrepreneur knows her future will be bright. Her dream is to sell her products all around the world, especially on planes. « For now, the aviation industry only distributes standard products. I want to add a Ghanaian touch of originality! »
Mégane Arnaud and Thibault Franceschet
Translated from French to English by Maud Le Rest and Thibault Franceschet
Cover picture : A student employed by Viviana making a money wallet – © Mégane Arnaud