In conversation with Victorine Vondee – Founder of Vonvic Enterprise and Ye! Boost Programme Accelerated Venture
Meet Victorine - a young entrepreneur and the Founder of Vonvic Enterprise - a Ghanaian enterprise.
The Ye! Boost Programme is a business acceleration programme led by Kumasi Hive with funding and support from the International Trade Centre and Kumasi Hive. Launched in April 2021, this innovative acceleration programme for export ready ventures builds on Kumasi Hive’s existing 12-week acceleration programme to bring in ITC’s knowledge and expertise on export, internationalisation, investor readiness and the AfCFTA. The 14-week acceleration programme will close with a pitch competition, whereby select ventures will pitch before an esteemed jury of experts and investors for a financial prize and ongoing support from ITC.
Vonvic is one of 20 ventures selected to take part in this pilot programme. In this post, we check in with Victorine to learn more about her business, her journey, and her goals and ambitions for the future. Read on to hear her story. And don’t forget to connect with her on Ye! Community to continue the discussion.
Ye!: What is the problem you are trying to solve and what is your solution?
Victorine: Well, the first problem is that many Ghanaian people are not showcasing their authenticity through our indigenous clothing. Often, these clothes are sold at exorbitant cost and there is sometimes a lack of versatility. Today, people need clothing that they can use in various gatherings and contexts.
The second problem is a lack of diversity in using hand-woven textiles. I believe the solution to this is providing high-quality yet affordable clothes to customers that allow them to experience royalty every day. Why royalty you ask? Well, since handwoven textiles were previously known to be worn by royals, I want to bring this experience to everyone. Everyone deserves to feel like royalty!
What sparked this idea? Did it happen one day or mature with time?
The idea was birthed after traveling to Northern Ghana and noticing the beautiful display of smocks (batakari) in colours of threads woven together. I immediately feel in love with them.The designs had great admiration from students from Southern Ghana who hadn’t seen or owned one and this influences their decision to buy.
At this time, I did not know exactly when I wanted to start a business, but I just thought keeping in touch with the indigenous artisans might be a good idea in the future. I envisioned providing these clothings at an affordable price to customers in the south. However, I still wasn’t sure when I should really turn this into a business and start-up activities. Coincidentally, I had the privilege of traveling abroad where I took advantage of an open call to exhibit products. I saw this as a push to start my business and began to jump in with excitement!
As an entrepreneur, what do you wish someone had told you about jumping into the game?
I wish someone would have made me aware of how challenging it is to scale up; how challenging it is to manage people who work for you; and how challenging it is to build up your trust again after workers let you down when you needed them most. All this has happened to me and it would have been great to have some insights on how to deal with these situations when they inevitably arise.
What were some of the lowest moments in your journey that forced you to adapt or go out of business?
One of my lowest moments early on in my entrepreneurship journey was not being able to get people to rally behind me and the vision. Even with workers, I often had a hard time getting them to believe in my vision. This is incredibly tough to go through and it makes you feel like you are alone in the journey. At one point in my business journey, I had no one who was working beside me – no one dedicated to the goal like I was and that was depressing at times. At this point, I found it necessary to join other networks of entrepreneurs who are going through similar situations to learn from how they overcome challenges in their entrepreneurial journey. They also served as peer mentors who encouraged me to stay on track. However, the inputs of Business coaches and incubator programs enabled me to set realistic goals with strategies to help me survive the stages of early growth
What are the big lofty goals you have? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
I want to be able to produce the best quality clothes that give my customers the feeling that they are royalty. In 5 years, I see myself expanding the business and scaling up to produce handwoven textiles. I want to have at least 20% of the market share.
In 10 years, I want to explore new avenues like planting cotton to produce yarns which would be supplied to other businesses. Entering into yarn production means that I could work towards reducing the influx of foreign clothes and yarns entering Ghana. This is important to me because I believe we Ghanaians have the capacity and resources to create these things domestically and I want to be part of that transition.
I would also like to explore employing different materials, such as using plastic waste for fibre, which could be used for weaving and contribute to a more circular economy. This is necessary because the excessive use of single used plastics are polluting our oceans and environment but they can be recycled and be out to better use. I am already expanding into tote bags with handwoven materials and would like to explore this further.
Finally, I want to explore other handwoven fabrics that are used across Africa to really provide a variety of different products and materials to my customers. In a nutshell, I want to create new avenues and innovative materials to increase production and ensure more individuals can access that royalty feeling.
What impact do you want to have on the world?
I want to make a difference on the lives of my workers, especially young women who are vulnerable because they have no source of income and are often economically disenfranchised in Ghana.
I hope to also equip and empower persons living with disabilities by supporting them with skills on sewing and design. If I could do this, I could support them to become economically stable and empowered. I hope that through my designs people believe in their authenticity and the authenticity of the Ghanaian people.
Finally, I want to be an eco-friendly brand that produces quality products but also reduces plastic pollution.
Read more about Victorine's business and its success via the links below: