If you want to achieve greatness in your work, it does not just depend on your level of education, hard work or perseverance. To achieve true greatness you should be able to stomach the challenges, disappointments and failures that success comes with.
I am sitting at the back row of the Accra International Conference centre, listening to the MC at the Women in Banking and Finance awards introduce the winner of the Community Development Project of the year. “And the prestigious award goes to the market woman with first class honours”. Struck by the introduction, i raised my head to gaze at the woman whose achievement was recognized. She walked to the podium to pick up her award in tears whiles receiving a standing ovation and began her appreciation message with a soulful Presbyterian hymn.
Mrs. Comfort Oduro-Nyarko, a Ghanaian businesswoman who begun brisk business at Makola market in 2004. She opened her shop and named it Hapcon where she sold household consumables with a GHc 200,000 loan she acquired from her bank. In order to pay off her loan, hardworking Comfort woke up 3:00 am everyday to sell her goods as a wholesale and retail vendor. With her strong determination to succeed, she was able to pay of her loans, and purchase 2 extra shops at different locations in Makola. Life was good, she was making money hand over fist. She purchased a brand new Toyota Prado and 3 other cars.
“That period was good, you could imagine the money i was making and I rented more shops to be used as a warehouse to store excess goods.”
Comfort made GHc10,000 per day from her 3 shops. She acquired other loans from different banks to purchase 8 extra shops, 4 at Abeka and 4 at Kaneshie.
After three years of operation, On 3rd March 2007, Comfort was going about her regular supervising duties in her shops when one of her sales personnel from her other shop in Okaishie came running with bad news. Armed policemen with dogs and 2 court bailiffs had invaded the shopping complex where she had rented her 2 shops to place an injunction on the business complex. An alleged owner had taken the landlady to court to dispute the ownership of the business complex, so all tenants were asked to vacate the premises. Frustrated, she began to inquire from the police of the person who had placed an injunction on their shops.
“The police man insulted me that, I am a market woman who does not know how to speak English and can’t read for that matter, so the bailiff should not show the document which orders tenants to evacuate the premises to me”.
This was where her resilient nature came to play. She has these personal life lessons to share with you on how to bounce back when things go south.
DEVELOP A THICK SKIN AND RELY ON YOURSELF.
Comfort became disappointed at the fact that she was ridiculed for not having higher education. In the process of having her goods thrown out of the shop by the police, she lost some of her items as people took advantage of her situation to steal the goods thrown out, also the vans she packed her items into to be taken to her other shops did not arrive at the said location and efforts to trace those vans proved futile. She with other market women battled at court on the injunction case for 2years leaving her financially and emotionally drained. During that period, she had very few people to turn to. Instead her family members and friends ridiculed her failure. She recalled in tears “My market women friends went around gossiping that I had gone for juju to make quick money and the effect is my failure as a business woman.” She spoke of how no family member was ready to lend her even a pesewa to pay off her loan. With the bank on her neck she thought it wise to escape to America, where she found work as a house help.
BUILD UP YOUR FAITH IN TRYING MOMENTS.
She was in a sizable financial hole and had to pay all her distributors, creditors and sales personnels. After this experience, she felt so much pain and humiliation; she stopped trading in Makola and Okaishie to use her warehouse at Kaneshie as shops in March 2011. Towards the end of the year in December, all her 4 shops at kaneshie caught fire; there she went through the toughest period of her life. This misfortune led her to sell all her houses and cars to pay off the loan she took to start afresh at Kaneshie. She was not able to clear her entire loan and did not receive any insurance coverage because with her little knowledge she did not register for fire insurance. She relied on God for intervention in her life. She built and strengthened her faith in God to open another door of opportunity to bounce back. In our conversation she said to me, “ I regained strength not to give up through the inspiring word of God and the Presbyterian Hymns I always sang to myself”.
PERSEVERE TO ATTAIN SUCCESS.
Amidst what happened to her, she learnt a lesson of how education was important and this made her determined to go back to school. Through the little education she had, she was able to start up a business but lacked knowledge on bank statement and insurance policies which made her lose that opportunity of gaining financial assistance. Comfort took it upon herself to go back to school and acquire all that academics she needed as a business woman. In the year 2011, she applied with her diploma certificate of 1991 to Regent University that took her in and begun at level 200 with the program of Accounting and Information system. She persevered to study well even through the challenges of affording her tuition fees at a costly private university. “I struggled when I was a student but that did not deter me from studying hard. I was always the last person to leave the library because I had so much to learn. The course was quite okay for me because the practical aspect had to do with the activities I carried out when I was a market woman so I had come across terms such as cash book, record sales and working capital”
Mrs. Comfort Nyarko finally graduated from Regent University with first class degree honours BSC in Accounting and Information system. She later applied to study MSC in International Accounting and Finance in May 2016 at Buckinghamshire University.
Today, innovative Comfort Oduro Nyarko has established the first ever Makola Institute which is a school that teaches market women and sales personnel accounting and other business management studies in local languages such as Twi, Ewe, Ga and Dagbani. She also teaches students who have completed senior high school but have financial challenges to further their education. Though the institution just begun, Comfort has high hopes of expanding her school. This initiative of Comfort is to serve as a platform for effective impartation of knowledge to all the market women to prevent them from having the experience she had.