Hi everyone! My name is Annette, welcome to my new monthly series with The Only Way Is Ghana called BEHIND THE BRAND, I’ll be interviewing Ghanaian entrepreneurs – at home and abroad – from a range of industries and disciplines. The aim is to spotlight the amazing talent within our community, giving you all a chance to discover new brands and services and to also get a little inspo throughout the year!
Meet Gerald Sagoe, So Fraîche Founder
This month and for my first interview, I talked to Gerald Sagoe, Creative Director and Co-Founder of So Fraîche Media a creative agency, specialising in producing visual content. For anyone interested in the media sector this is really valuable insight!
annette abena: Tell me about yourself.
Gerald: I’m Gerald and I’m a Creative Director. My background is in film, creating content for brands, producing, writing and directing anything from commercials to promos and documentaries. I believe I’m a multi-faceted creator and I don’t like to put my creativity in a box. I try to use it to be entrepreneurial and try different things. I built a brand called So Fraîche Media, which I believe has allowed us to be innovative with whatever we do and currently what we do is create content for brands; but again that can change in the future as I feel I don’t want to put a label or limit on our movement.
Gerald has worked at and created content for companies ranging from PR Companies to brands like O2, Virgin Media, MTN, AKSA and Nike. Gerald also worked with a former President of Ghana on a campaign to inspire young Ghanaians and effectively reach the millennial demographic. Growing So Fraîche into one of Africa’s largest media companies and a global brand.
annette abena: What was your motivation for starting So Fraîche?
Gerald: It’s been various motivations and essentially putting different passions together. From always being a tech geek and someone into new things, to my love for Art, film and fashion; So Fraîche was about bringing all this together somehow and creating not just a brand but an ideology, to create limitlessly and inspire my generation. I did not really know what such a brand would look like but working with someone else who could bring a business element to the idea, we ended up building the company. So overall it is all about embodying all your passions into something and trying to make a living from it.
annette abena: Tell me about your business journey so far.
Gerald: It started around 2011, around the time of the London riots and when the sentiment was very rebellious and anti-status quo. This was also a time when social media was really starting to blow up so there was an opportunity to push creative content. I feel we were doing something no one else was. Even the fact that we are called So Fraîche, putting our mission statement and the purpose of the brand in our name.
Then as we began to grow we had to think about how we could actually monetise off of our brand. It is all well and good people knowing about your brand and your great content – but how do you actually make money from it? That is when we decided to bring other brands into it. So a couple of years down the line we are creating content for brands whilst still growing our own personal brand at the same time.
It proves to be difficult: managing and bringing people on board, trying to sell people the vision for instance without paying them when you first start – it’s hard work. What keeps you going is knowing that people are watching you and recognise your brand name and even if they don’t they recognise your work and understand what you do and have a level of respect for it. It’s been an evolution. It’s also been a personal journey as an entrepreneur: developing an understanding of your industry and your brand. I feel even to this day I’m still understanding it, what the possibilities are and how it can evolve. I believe the best brands are continually evolving.
annette abena: Tell me about the work you’ve done in Ghana and how you see creative content evolving in the country.
Gerald: First of all, I’m an African and I understand my African heritage, so going back to Ghana and establishing my company there was a no-brainer. I feel that I should champion African excellence and show other entrepreneurs that you can build in Africa and show the rest of the world that we can create things and sell it. The scope of Africa is enormous – it is the future. When you go to Africa you see people from all over the world setting up ventures, so why not us? People who are indigenous to the continent, making things happen and helping and employing others at the same time. So we set up the company in Ghana (as well as in the UK) and have employed a team of Ghanaians in-house. I’ve worked with brands from MTN to Coca Cola, Scent of Africa, The British High Commission and private companies, our most recent client being alcoholic beverage brand, Virginia black (owned by Drake).
My long-term vision is to keep on evolving and making the So Fraîche brand synonymous with African excellence, whilst expanding what we do to the rest of the world. You get a lot of brands that champion being African, like Guinness, who’s marketing is all about being black and being African but yet these companies are not African owned. I really believe if we let people know who we are and champion Africa as Africans it is really quite powerful.
annette abena: What are your experiences of doing business in Ghana?
Gerald: You really have to be a modern day warrior that is what being an entrepreneur is. Working in Ghana is not easy. First and foremost you’re not used to how things work and you have to become accustomed to the mindset of the people and working culture and you kind of have to learn the hard way. Things are very slow and you have to have a lot of patience when dealing with people. It can be frustrating but you can’t lose your cool – you have to be able to work smart and think two steps ahead, be ready for anything.
Understanding the culture is very important and knowing how to communicate with people so that you can gain respect. These are things no one can really teach you, you have to learn from experience and grow fast. But saying that there are core lessons in business and even navigating around that you would need to know and I feel those lessons we’ve learnt now and I could consult others on them.
annette abena: What are your short and long-term goals?
Gerald: Currently, I am pushing my art. My passion is in filmmaking and being an artist and I don’t want to neglect that whilst being an entrepreneur. Although I think being an entrepreneur is important and a lot of artists don’t learn this core skill, I feel as though I am at a point where I can combine the two. My goal is to put out my first film, which will be under the So Fraîche brand, whilst still presenting me as the filmmaker with the vision.
Also, continue creating and evolving with So Fraîche – whether that be products or brand partnerships, the idea is just to grow the brand into a beast.
annette abena: What advice would you give to others in the diaspora about launching a successful brand and business here and in Ghana?
Gerald: 1. Understand the industry you’re working in.
2. Be resilient and understand that it’s going to be tough and that it’s not going to be an overnight success – you have to put years into it.
3. Understand that you have to be flexible and evolve. For instance, even when you have an idea, know that it may not be the one or it may lead you to another path. You’ve got to have an adaptable mindset.
4. Know how to deal with all kinds of people – there is great value in having good people skills and being able to read people. 5. Know your strengths and your development needs.
Gerald’s top tips for doing business in Ghana:
- Networking: Networking is important and in Ghana, it’s no different. Find out who and what can support you. There are loads of events and networks for expats which is a great opportunity for networking.
- Travel: As a startup you can save some money and consider taking ‘Tro Tro’ (public buses) or sharing cabs.
- Navigation: Understand quickly how people find and describe locations i.e. street names/ postcodes are rarely used. Most people recognise places through local monuments/ shops.
- Time: Time is not as valued in business as it is in the UK, be patient but always remain professional.
- Culture: If you can use the language and learn other forms of cultural communication e.g. handshakes, it all helps to let people know you embrace the culture and you understand them.
- Restrictions: Be mindful of the restrictions of some the home comforts you’re used to e.g. data/ wifi can be very expensive so for me sharing content around was not going to be as quick and easy as I was used to. Another setback could be power cuts aka ‘Dumsor’ – so back up any valuable content and have a flashlight handy! Adapt to your surroundings and the blocks that will be stacked against you.
- Know your industry: your competitors, your customers and their needs within the Ghanaian market, understand how they think.
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The series continues with another groundbreaking entrepreneur within Ghana’s tourism industry – see you next month!