[In picture above, Emi Beth Quantson at SheHive Accra 2016]
As part of SheHive Accra 2016, I caught up with Emi-Beth Quantson, CEO and founder of Kawa Moka, after her talk on how she won Startup Cup Ghana. Kawa Moka is a “social enterprise coffee shop and creative space” that empowers underprivileged women through employment and mentorship.
The Startup Cup competition provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to network and gain financial support, which were essential for Kawa Moka to thrive.
What was your childhood like?
I had a very happy childhood. I have two older brothers who used to bully me shamelessly. And as my parents always entertained, we had to serve. I think that is where the interest in hospitality came from because my parents were always throwing parties – entertaining, they told jokes.
We used to have Christmases where all our cousins would come together and we will have nine lessons and carols and sing and do firecrackers. It was pretty cool.
What dreams did you have growing up?
A lot! I wanted to do so much. I still want to do so much. One of the things I wanted when I was in Ashesi [University] was to be the first woman governor of the Bank of Ghana.
I still have not lost that ambition. I am just praying that nobody gets there first. I still want to go to grad school, maybe go back into corporate and do something finance, sort of setup Kawa Moka, and then afterwards have it run a little and do something else.
I have a million and one ideas. We will see which ones get done and which ones do not. But there are a lot of things I want to do with my life.
What would you say are some of the influences that have shaped you into the woman you are today?
I come from a close knit family, and I would say my mum, aunt, and grandmother were my closest influences on my mum’s side. And on my dad’s side, there were also a lot of women – aunties and grandma. I guess each family sort of taught me different value sets and opened me up to different experiences.
I remember my grandma was always concerned about me: she calls me Aku. She was always like, “Oh Aku, what are you doing again? You say you want to do this or you don’t want to this, ohh”. She is always concerned and finding ways to impart knowledge from way back, not try to necessarily put me down, but then she will use some nice way of telling you that, hey you should do this.
And it was fun to have all those family gatherings so I think my family has probably been my largest influence.
How was your transition from Ashesi University into the corporate world?
Very easy. I worked part time in my final year of school. I worked part time for Ghana Home loans so I had some corporate experience.
My final internship was at PWC so before I graduated, I already had a job and had already gained experience in that job. As such, it was a very easy transition for me – I did not have to send out a million CVs.
You have a background in consulting. What would you say are some of the key skills that make you a successful consultant?
Being able to think on your feet. Even though a lot of assignments have a lot of similarities, everything is unique in its own way. For every assignment, you need to think on your feet and find innovative solutions based on the parameters that you are given.
I think that is a key skill. Another key skill is networking and just learning how to talk to clients and establish a relationship because a lot of the consulting assignments are based on relationships. They feel the connectivity because you give them the best solution and you do it with a smile and you do it nicely.
So, I would say those are the two key skills, and of course the analytics is a given. You need to have the technical skills. A lot of which, if you are working with a multinational they will teach you, but you can also teach yourself.
You are the CEO and founder of Kawa Moka as well as the CFO at Impact Hub. How do you juggle all these responsibilities?
With Impact Hub, I am transitioning. We are hopefully going to put out a job description for finance manager so that at least I can have support in the sense of the day to day stuff. But I mean it has not been so hard.
I have had a lot of support from the Impact Hub team so there are other team members who sort of put in data and do the rudimentary stuff as well so that helps me with balancing.
But it has also not been easy because, of course, you have your peak seasons running your own business. I also do a bit of consulting on the side so that has been a challenge as well.
Some days you wish there are more than 24 hours in a day, but I think one tool that helps with balancing is communication – just make sure you set realistic deadlines and then you work to make sure you accomplish them.
I also take courses all the time on setting smart goals and managing time just to remind myself how to be efficient and plan things out properly.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your personal life?
My husband is really fantastic. He is like my number one fan. He is always like, “why are you not doing this?” So he is giving me that male aggression in my business. He always pushes me to make sure I get to the next level and stay honest with my goals and visions.
So even though sometimes, I spend late nights at work or do events, he understands and he always asks how he can support me. It has been a bit harder on the weekends, especially if there are family events. I have missed a couple.
As I have slowly built capacity at Kawa Moka, I have not had to be there all the time because my capable team keep on top of things.
What motivates you? What keeps you going?
What keeps me going is having something in my head, believing it should be out there, and building it to get to that point. Basically, trying to achieve what you believe is possible. It keeps me going because at every level, I’m like ‘ok, I am here now, but I want to be here so how do I get there?’
And then just a reminder that I want to be at a different level sort of pushes me to get up, to stop being lazy and think about the next thing. So you have hit a roadblock, it is not the end of the world. What is the way around? Do you jump off?
This perspective keeps me honest as well. Also knowing that there is so much I want to do with my life gives me that pressure that ,”time waits for no man”, you need to get it done, you need to move to the next stage drive.
Also, just how do I let other people do a lot more? Because obviously, you cannot do everything by yourself. How can you get other people’s input so that it is a team effort and I am not dependent on just me.
With all of these experiences, what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
That is tough. I think it is staying true to myself. Every stage I have been in my life, I have explored, I have challenged myself to be better, to accomplish more and not necessarily be confined by the expectations of society.
For me, it is that ability to stay true and still earn money and still create things that for me. I think is my greatest accomplishment.
Want to learn more about Emi Beth-Quantson, read this ’07 feature of her on Ashesi University’s career services page.
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