While I was sophomore slumping and pretending to be productive over winter break, Essie Quakyi ’14 was launching not one, but two projects: Imagine Ghana and According to Plan. Imagine Ghana is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide underprivileged youths in Ghana with the necessary skills, resources, and opportunities to make an informed career decision for themselves. Essie hopes to cause a paradigm shift in the way young people in Ghana approach their career journeys. Unrelated, but equally cool, According to Plan is an event decor and design company also based on her home turf. BlogDailyHerald sat down with Essie to get the details on both projects.
BlogDH: When did you launch Imagine Ghana?
Essie: The Imagine Ghana initiative was unofficially launched in December 2013 in Ghana, though we’re looking to a do a bigger and more formal one in the next few months. This launch will bring together volunteers, educators, program participants, financiers and speakers.
BlogDH: What were your motivations for starting the nonprofit?
Essie: My high school experience and my time at Brown forced me to become a more critical thinker and to identify potential for change around me, and so I constantly sought ways to improve the state of my home country, Ghana. After interning for some time in some government institutions in Ghana I quickly learned that “quick-fixes” for problems have truly held the country back, and that the most effective solutions are those that tackle problems at their root. In thinking about youth unemployment and the general approach to career decision in Ghana, I developed Imagine Ghana, which seeks to expose the youth in Ghana to a better way of thinking, and to challenge them to explore the ‘whys’ of their career choices.
BlogDH: How do you manage the nonprofit while you are here at Brown?
It can be tough doing that from all the way over here, but I work with a team of very competent people who are more than dedicated to the cause of improving Ghana and creating waves of change, which makes my job easier. We have team members in colleges and universities all over the United States, who have been fundamental in the functioning of this initiative, like our very own MVP Yasmine Acheampong at Scripps College! Everyone has a position and specific duties to fulfill under these positions so that gets the job done. I must admit that not being in Ghana can slow some things down, but I’m back home often enough for that to not be much of a problem.
BlogDH: What are your future plans for Imagine Ghana?
The problem of negative attitudes toward career decisions and employment is a widespread one in Africa, so we are currently working on a generalized model so that the Imagine Ghana program can be taken to other nations in Africa. The nonprofit is also registered as Imagine Plus+, which would allow us to change the name according to whatever country the program is introduced to. When we start introducing Imagine Plus+ to other countries it would be tailored to the specific needs of those countries with respects to the economy, culture, and population structure.
BlogDH: How did According to Plan (ATP) start?
The company was launched in October 2013 after being test-run for a while. I have always been interested in event decor and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do on the side. I decorated for a family friend’s wedding when I was just 18 and that was pretty much when I knew I should start a company. I recognized the growing monotony in event decor in Ghana; I was itching to bring something new to the scene, so I took the plunge and started According To Plan Event Decor & Design.
BlogDH: What has been your favorite event?
My favorite event was the company’s launch party. We showcased some of our many services and decor; it was a huge success that got people talking. It was very interesting to do an event that wasn’t for a client. I was pretty much free to do my own thing, but I had to be smart about it. The launch party will be followed pretty closely by a surprise party, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet!
BlogDH: How did you raise capital for the company?
Investors, loans and corporate sponsors! I invested all of my starting capital in items that could be rented out for events, and after a few rentals I started to make profits. Then I began to put all of this back into the company to make it bigger and to pay off loans as well.
BlogDH: Where are you hoping to go with the company?
Eventually I hope to expand the company to have a training program. I want to be able to offer subsidized lessons to less fortunate people who are interested in event decor so that they have skills that can use to generate capital for themselves. I am all about self-sufficiency, and the training program would definitely help others achieve that. A more immediate expansion I am working on is developing an app through which clients can put together the appearance and features of their event themselves, after which my company comes in and makes this a reality. The app would allow clients to have an actual idea of what their special event will look like, and it will give them a bigger say in the decor process!
BlogDH: Last, but certainly not least: Ratty or V-dub?
No brainer: V-dub. I lived closer to the Ratty as a freshman, but every time I went to the V-Dub there was one staff member who always referred to me as “Beyonce.”