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Exploring the Road Less Taken: Rita Kusi

· Entrepreneurship,Africa

“Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. People shouldn’t feel forced to become entrepreneurs just because it’s trending.” - Rita Kusi

“Cut your coat according to your size” was the advice her mother constantly shared since childhood. Guided by such wise words, Rita Kusi’s life philosophy has always been to be genuine, true, authentic and treat people with compassion. To relieve stress and to escape the pressures of everyday life while building two outstanding businesses - KUSI Consulting and 360Gh Online, formerly threesixtyGh - she exercises and prays consistently. Approximately five years ago, Rita began running and walking in marathons to help raise awareness about Lupus. This practice has seemed to carry over into her life journey as she liberated herself from the chains and shackles of corporate America. There is now a new found level of freedom she is never willing to give up.

Exploring the road less traveled

Rita grew up in a humble household where her grandmother, mother, and father showered her with the secret ingredient to thriving in life; love. It’s no wonder she exudes resilience and strength; two traits she attributes to the women in her life. Unlike most entrepreneurs who have amassed strong networks and have evidently made a foundational impact in their communities, Rita often wonders if she is indeed successful.

“I believe success is something we all have to define for ourselves. No one person can define my success. It should be a sacred place of contentment for the individual. So would I consider myself successful? Yes, I am free doing all of the things I love. That’s success.”

She goes on to explain.

Growing up in the states, the traditional path after college was to pursue a career in corporate America. However, a flawed experience with one supervisor during this rapidly changing period led her to resign. Initially, she resented him and was at odds with the situation. However, later realized that when things do not go as planned, we have two decisions. Either we spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation to put the pieces together or we can just leave the pieces on the floor and move on. She chose to move forward and start her business KUSI Consulting which she registered in the U.S. first then Ghana.

Her move back home was definitely a transformative experience as she had to unlearn and relearn. With a new way of life comes now rules. Prior to returning she was told to learn “the system” to effectively progress in the seemingly blossoming entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Ghana – like most places – is about whom you know or who knows you, not how much you know.”

With support from family, she successfully relocated and her network slowly amassed. Although KUSI Consulting has been in operation for about 5 years, her main focus has been reinvesting profits to stimulate the growth of the firm. As of late, she is now focusing on generating revenue by cutting down on operational costs and team building. According to Rita,

“I have seen people come to start a business in Ghana with millions of dollars and managed to blow it all away due to negligence.”

The true essence of her journey

In a recent article on KUSI Consulting, Rita shared the 6 Important Questions to Ask Before Venturing into Entrepreneurship. As she moved to Ghana, one thing was consistently apparent. Almost every young adult present had assumed the role of founder or CEO of a company due to the high youth unemployment rate in the country. Rita is not the biggest proponent of this culture. She rather recommends young adults to work for a potential mentor to get the relevant experiences and skillsets needed prior to pursuing the entrepreneurial path. Peter Thiel, an American entrepreneur, and venture capitalist made a point in his book Zero to One that “you could have 100% of the equity if you fully fund your own venture, but if it fails you’ll have 100% of nothing. Owning just 0.001% of Google, by contrast, is incredibly valuable (more than $35 million as of 2014).

Most people have misconceptions about entrepreneurship because they see the glamorous side of it and not the horrors. For Rita, the unglamorous side is difficulty finding and staffing quality talent due to the programmed ownership mindset of the labor force. This means workers subconsciously dedicate minimal time to building their employer’s business. There’ve been discussions about when a Jobs or Bezos would be birthed from the African continent. The thing with the entrepreneurs aforementioned is they practice Reality Distortion Field, which celebrates the idea that what you are doing is the most important thing in the world. Unfortunately, for reasons discussed, this model would be extremely difficult to be emulated in the Ghanaian employment ecosystem. Another challenge Rita faced and still faces today is the flawed internet penetration levels in Ghana. Though the internet has improved over time, she finds herself exhausting data exponentially as the output of both companies is facilitated digitally. Assessing human nature, only a select few keep striving despite facing challenges or obstacles as such. In fact, Will Smith made the point in an interview that;

“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. You might be all those things, You got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there are two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.”

Rita - being a marathon runner - embodies a similar spirit. For her, the youth on the continent is her “why.” As she shared,

“the youth keeps me going and keeps me on my toes because they do so much with so little. They are ready for change and ready to see the continent transform.”

Unfortunately, there are organizations today who have come to exploit and take advantage of the blossoming talent on the African continent. Rita shared a recurring scenario where foreign investors often award aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas a sum of about $10,000. In return, they invest and cunningly take percentages as high as 50% or more of their proposed businesses. Being exploited may not hurt physically, however, the psychological effects could be overbearing and purpose-threatening especially once the entrepreneur has come to terms with reality. It may lead one to feel oppressed, leave one’s desired realities to chance and be unwilling to innovate.

The larger purpose and meaning of her journey becomes apparent

Oftentimes, those who have turned their dreams into reality attribute their success to chance. Not Rita. She believes in grace, hard work, and persistence. When it comes to building and sustaining her business, she admits a lot has to do with possessing and honing in on the right skillsets. In fact, one of her super skillsets includes being extremely strategic about connecting with the right people and establishing partnerships.

Provided she was to start her entrepreneurial journey over again, Rita would be more careful about the initiatives she puts her money and time towards. For example, through 360Gh Online, the initiative #360WritersChallenge was birthed with the purpose of encouraging youth to express their creativity through writing. However, a portion of the monetary award to winners was coming out of her pocket due to difficulty attaining adequate sponsorships. This experience has taught her to better cultivate prescience in order to gauge what may be working or not working in order to quickly pivot.

Let’s say you are looking to pivot and explore a similar journey to Rita’s however, may not have the same resources and network she has amassed today. She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to first develop their idea and make it as realistic as possible. In addition,

“you might want to start building your network. You don’t need money to market an idea - get on the internet. We all have access to the web and social media today and it can definitely be used to turn your ideas into reality. You just need to get really creative, innovative and believe in your product and your idea. If you believe in it enough, others will too.

She goes on to add,

“Although the continent is now getting to the point of using online marketing, traditional marketing - such as radio advertisements and speaking at events - are still very relevant marketing tactics.”

Throughout her life, Rita has always been passionate about people. Coincidentally, she was heavily involved in the Ghanaian ecosystem when she arrived. It took a while to realize that filtering her network could be beneficial in helping fulfill her life philosophy. During our conversation, she testified that

“there is a way Ghana can suck you in when you allow it. It’s so easy to lose focus. In the past several months alone, I just had to pause and realize the importance of being selfish. The importance of not being so available…”

Rita also believes there is so much façade in Ghana; many people have become public relations experts capable of seeing a false image. The effects of this are contingent on the lens you choose to peak through. However, the flaws always outweigh the benefits because minimal accomplishments are now widely celebrated as opposed to encouraged to continuously innovate. This is one of the quickest ways entrepreneurial growth has been stunted on the African continent. When I asked Rita to name one entrepreneur she believes is following the correct procedures to building a business, she paused to think deeply about her response then went on to name Alloysius Attah II, CEO of Farmerline,

“His company Farmerline, a Ghanaian social business working to transform the lives of millions of farmers. has a staff of over 30. The organization has been successful at raising funds from reputable sources, and scaled their efforts to impact over 200,000 farmers across 5 countries.”

What is your comparative advantage as an African entrepreneur?

--

Jeph Acheampong

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