by Xu Zheng and Francis Tandoh
Sitting on the second floor of a bustling building in the suburbs of Accra, capital of Ghana, a shoe store with simple exterior decoration and branded “Warm Their Feet” is thronged with customers.
In a market that has long been dominated by imported products, the store has surprised many with its locally-made shoes.
What’s more special about the store is the fact that some portion of the sales revenues will be used by the shop to make shoes for many deprived children who still go to school barefoot in remote areas.
“You buy our shoes, warm your feet, and you are helping warm the feet of those less privileged children in the meantime,” said Noel Nusugah, owner of the shop.
Enthusiastic about fashion, the 33-year-old Ghanaian set up his own shop and factory two years ago.
“I felt that I needed to capitalize on the taste that people have for looking good, so that is one of the reasons why I went into the shoemaking business,” he told Xinhua, adding that the idea of donating shoes to those children was inspired by his late mother who was passionate about charity.
“In my mother’s home, what you saw ordinarily were children from other people’s homes who were going to school. She brought them to her house, she fed them and make sure they got the education,” Nusugah said. “I want to be able to put shoes on the feet of children who go to school barefoot.”
Even though his shoemaking enterprise is at its early stage, he has been faithful to the promise that almost 10 percent of its profit will be invested in making shoes for these children.
With raw materials such as swede, soles imported from Italy, Nusugah and his staff normally spend four hours producing a pair of shoes. The uniquely-designed shoes are strong and durable for people of all ages, according to him.
The owner said some of the shoemakers in his workshop used to be homeless youngsters without formal jobs.
“We trained them to acquire shoe-making skills, and some of them were all quite talented. Now with a stable job, they don’t have to hang around in the streets anymore,” he said, adding that shoe-making has enormously changed their lives.
Currently, the store’s shoes are luring more and more buyers at home and abroad as the rising popularity bolsters Nusugah’s confidence that high-quality and affordable shoes will finally stand out in the competition.
“If you look at the standard of shoes we do, if you want to compare that to a foreign brand as something similar, we produce the same quality. Because it is a local production, we are able to sell at a lower price,” he said.
“Five years from now, we hope we are able to expand our territories here in Ghana and then we want to look at the possibility of exporting to our neighboring countries,” he said.
Ambitious about the shoe business in West Africa, Nusugah said there are still multiple challenges ahead, and the pressing issue facing many young entrepreneurs in the country is lack of funds.
“It discourages a lot of people from going into businesses. Many of us had to fall on financial institutions, families, and friends to be able to raise capital to push it to where it is today,” he added.
Nusugah meanwhile urged young entrepreneurs not to be discouraged but to collaborate with others and do more research to be able to stay in business.