Emefa Quashie: From beauty queen to farmer and social entrepreneur

emefa quashie
Mamagah Farms is an agricultural social project run by beauty queen Emefa Quashie Click To Tweet

It’s not every day that you hear the story of a beauty queen owning a farm. But the story gets bewildering when you notice that instead of just employing people to work on the farm (like some “modern” farmers do) she goes hands in and knee deep -getting her well-manicured nails in groveling dirt as she furiously uproots and plants, as she waters and nurtures and as she satisfyingly harvests and reaps.

Meet Emefa Quashie. A present farmer, social entrepreneur and an erstwhile beauty pageant winner. When she’s not furiously uprooting and planting on her farm (Mamagah Farms), she is lost in her studies for her MBA in Marketing or running Universal ChildCare Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports needy children.

SLA contributor Emma Kwenu Smith caught up with Emefa to get some insights on how to dominate in an unpopular agriculture career for modern young women and simultaneously use it to make a social impact.

Tell us about Mamagah Farms.

Mamagah Farms is a social project that mobilizes and empowers rural women farmers to adopt modern technologies in farming. We want to commercialize agriculture in rural communities in southern Ghana. Mamagah farms was established in 2015 with the main aim of empowering women economically through commercial farming and creating support schemes. These schemes create opportunities for smallholder farmers to improve their livelihood.

Currently, we work with female smallholder farmers in rural communities within the Southern part of Ghana. Simply put: We farm, we train and we support.

There are so many avenues for social entrepreneurship -why agriculture and what was the innovative idea behind Mamagah Farms?

I was born into a farming community, and my mother was a small holder farmer so I spent a lot of my days on the farm assisting her. Unfortunately, along the line I grew up with a warped misconception about agriculture. Growing up in a rural community, I always thought farming was for the poor and uneducated -after all, many folks there turn to farming to be able to feed their families and also make an economic living.

However, over time I came to appreciate the relevance of agriculture and numerous opportunities it presents to the youth. Mamagah Farms was born out of this realization. This is why I decided to take up farming –to send a message to the young women.


Do you plan to diversify what you produce and expand to include other parts of the country? How are you preparing for this?

With over 200 acres of land in the Volta Region of Ghana, we specialize in growing and harvesting in maize and pepper. Unfortunately, and as is the same with any start-up, not having enough funds can slow down plans of scaling up. We are pitching for investors and hopefully, we would be able to work at optimum capacity, making full use of the land.

This way, we will be able to diversify our produce and grow a variety of crops to suit both local and international demands. Funding is everything especially for an entrepreneur who wants to leverage on technology to make farming simple and easier. There are plans to expand to other parts of the country and even West Africa.

Funding is everything especially for an entrepreneur who wants to leverage on technology Click To Tweet

How does your business as a social venture empower local women farmers?

Mamagah Farms is just like social entrepreneurship project. We apply business principles to solve societal problems. What we noticed is that there is potential for rural women farmers to cultivate on a bigger scale and learn the best farming methods which would ultimately impact their economic livelihood. Realizing this, we use the profit from Mamagah Farms for investments.

Apart from financially supporting these farmers to purchase inputs and commercialize their farms, we also partner with local organizations to provide training and extension sessions for these women. Most of the women who work with us are single mothers and while we want to fight poverty and promote empowerment, we want these women to have enough to afford to educate their children. An empowered woman means an empowered family and ultimately, an empowered nation.


What challenges have you faced with Mamagah Farms and its related social projects?

My biggest challenge has been reorienting the minds of the local folks. As hardworking as they are, the tradition has created a certain mindset towards change. A typical example is technology. When you suggest the use of tractors, some believe that using tractors may disturb the peace of their ancestors. With such a mindset, how can we grow?

But it is not enough to recognize a challenge and leave it there. We take the women farmers through training programs, where we address these challenges. We show them concrete examples of how farming is done in first world countries and how we can get there. Culture and tradition can have a hold on people’s mindset, and it is important to give them the needed exposure in order to disabuse this mindset.


Why should more women explore the prospects in agriculture in Ghana, and Africa?

In recent times, women are defying the odds and taking more risks in their careers. Why should agriculture and agribusinesses be any different? Can a woman not own a 10,000 acre farm and work on it herself, while managing others to work as well? Agriculture has never been and is not a reserve of men. Our natural disposition as women makes us more inclined to be the better farmers, we are nurturing and detail-oriented. This is an important quality.

There are several opportunities in agriculture we can take advantage of. From crop planting through to the distribution of produce, there are endless opportunities to explore. Food is a necessity. Africa has arable land and other resources, and there are always opportunities to meet the need for food produce.  If you get such an opportunity, why say no?

Agriculture has never been and is not a reserve of the man - Emefa Quashie founder of @MamagahFarms Click To Tweet

Aside farming, what are your other interests?

I study because I have to slay in my MBA.  Aside that, I love to visit the gym and play tennis. Having been a beauty queen myself, I enjoy beauty pageantry.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Dorinda Mawuenya Matey: It never started as a business, I was just sharing my passion

Dorinda Mawuenya Matey is a natural hair enthusiast and entrepreneur who turned her love for natural hair into her profession. She started the “We Naturals Team” as a Facebook page to share her discoveries and knowledge about her hair journey. In time as her followers grew, they needed more than just advice; they needed quality products to grow healthy hair. Dorinda saw this as an opportunity to turn her passion into a profession. Currently, her company is one of the leading hair products brand in Ghana and Nigeria. We Naturals has 19 employees and 68 retailers in Ghana, 39 in Nigeria and one in Cote d’Ivoire.

What ignited the spark to start the We Naturals Team?

When I started my natural hair journey in 2011, I was completely lost. I had no idea how to handle my hair and eventually relaxed it again. In 2013, I went back to natural hair, I realized it was much easier this time as I was reading a lot about my hair and experimenting with different hairstyles, products and regimen. On my first anniversary, I decided to start a Facebook page (We Naturals) to share all that I’m learning to help make the journey easier for others. It never started as a business; I was just sharing my passion. The business We Naturals came in after my followers on Facebook started asking about products. I saw an opportunity in there and started selling other brands until I started making my own products.

How did your followers react when you started making hair products?

They were excited and received it very well. We won’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for our very amazing followers and customers.

Our very first sale was made on Facebook.

What was unexpected when you started We Naturals?

Well, I realized people will do anything to undermine others just to get ahead. You have to be diligent not to compromise on your integrity and focus on your goals to keep moving forward.

What creative strategies did you use to acquire funds to start the business?

I had funds from a 3 year life investment policy I started in 2011. Because I had this money, it was fairly easy for me to get going when I decided to start selling products. It wasn’t enough to do everything, but it was a good start.


Did you get the products right on the first try or did you have to do more trial and errors?

We often do a lot of trials until we are satisfied with the efficiency of the product, the consistency, scent, colour etc. We have a production team who make the products, they’re then sent to labeling and quality control before it moves to store.

We experiment on employees, friends and family. We sometimes also request for product testers from social media who also serve as our final testing point before the product is introduced.

Why do you focus on only natural hair products? Do you have plans on making products for relaxed hair?

The company started off with my passion for natural hair, because of that the products were automatically perceived to work for only natural hair. However, most of our products can be used for all types of hair, though in some cases with slight difference in method.

Have you had any formal education pertaining to your choice of career?

Yes I have a certificate in Natural Products Formulation from the USA. I had to learn how to make the products from a credible institution to be able to make quality products. I have experience in business and marketing which come in handy.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I love reading positive feedback from our customers. Fortunately about 90% of all the feedback we receive is positive and they come in very often. Every single time I receive a positive feedback, I smile. It makes me really happy because that is one more person we have provided a solution to, not just sold a product.

How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

Our primary target groups are individuals on a healthy hair journey, mainly the natural hair journey and these are people who are looking for results. Our business is built on selling solutions, not just products. We solve hair problems and I believe this is what our credibility is built on.

I am passionate about making the hair journey for all my customers a delight so I always go out of my way to help them find solutions. That is what automatically sets us apart, the genuine passion to make our customers happy always.

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Describe a typical day at work.

No two days are ever the same with me. It depends on what needs my attention the most but generally I go over accounts with the sales team and allocate monies for various things that need to be taken care of. I then go into production, mainly supervising and sometime making products myself when necessary.

I handle our social media platforms personally so I am on and off social media throughout the day responding to questions, sharing contents and taking orders. I also check for orders on our website and respond to emails. I go to our store to check on stock and bulk orders going out, as well as inspecting products especially labeling and responding to complaints and other issues.

What difficulties did you face expanding to other African countries? What was surprisingly simple?

The major difficulty we faced and are still facing in Nigeria, is the exchange rate. The Naira keeps falling and we end up losing money through exchange. With the Francophone countries, I will say the language barrier has slowed our efforts but we are taking necessary steps to resolve these issues.

What was surprisingly easy was how quickly Nigerians accepted our products.

What are your goals for the company?

Our goal is to be the number one in Africa not just in product quality, market share and revenue but also in the impact we have on our customers and change caused in our communities.

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What habits and mindsets helped make you successful?

We are very dedicated to what we do and do not compromise on quality. When it comes to making products, there are so many short cuts our competitors take to make products smell nice, look good, increase volume etc. that compromise on the quality. We have never and will never do that.

Ultimately, it is the favor of God that has brought us this far. I could have done everything right but without the favor and blessings of God, this would not have been possible.

As a child, was it your dream to start a natural hair company?

No. I wanted to be a pilot, soldier, geologist, psychologist at different points in my life but my real passion is entrepreneurship. We Naturals is not the first company or venture I have started and will certainly not be my last.

Which African Celebrity rocks her natural hair best? Why do you think so?

There are so many amazing celebrity naturalistas out there but I am currently crushing on the Nigerian actress, Omoni Oboli. She enjoys her hair and I love that!