Constance Swaniker is the founder and the CEO of Accents & Art, a Ghanaian company that produces high-end artistic products using a combination of exotic woods, wrought iron, cane and glass for furnishing and construction. The company also runs the Art & Design Institute.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The toughest situation I’ve found myself in as a business owner in the past 20 years had to do with walking off a job. Walking off a job, to a great extent, affects the survival of the business in terms of enhancing cash flow.
Even though, at times, the job is something the business really needs; I am also aware of the fact that, at the end of the day, it can damage the business more than just looking at the figures of the contract at hand. This means considering a lot of factors, like corporate governance and cash flow systems.
Building a powerful brand over the years and putting systems in place to check corporate governance and cash flow issues gave me leverage to overcome situations of this nature, and [allowed me to] bid for larger contracts, which was worth waiting for.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
One of the achievements I am most proud of had to do with the birth of the Design & Technology Institute in 2016. The Design & Technology Institute was established as a result of the success chalked in the construction and creative industry by its parent company, Accents & Art.
The vision of [the institute] is to transform youth technical vocational education training across West Africa, graduating [more than] 20,000 students annually in the near future. The objective of the institute is to bridge the gap between the school curriculum and the industry.
The opportunity to leave a legacy makes this project an exciting one.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
One of my greatest weakness is self-doubt. There have been moments in my entrepreneurial journey where I felt I didn’t have the strength to continue. Sometimes the huge task ahead and external factors beyond my control – like economic fluctuations, currency depreciation, HR issues – all contribute to my self-doubt.
Putting systems in place, and the need to show courage as the leader, prevented this from negatively impacting the company.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
I disagree with the conventional business wisdom of the customer always being right. I feel the customer can’t always be right. As a fabricator and designer our mandate is to guide and walk our clients through the design process. As such, when we have difficult clients who may not necessarily understand the process, we walk them through to find solutions collaboratively to suit their demands.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
I wish I knew entrepreneurship was a tough journey. The entrepreneurship journey is not for the faint-hearted. One must possess enough passion to last a lifetime if they are to sail through the many trials which will come along the journey.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
One untapped business opportunity, or profit-making idea, is youth education in Africa. The opportunity to provide young Africans with hands-on skills training to enable [them] to set up on their own or gain meaningful employment.