When Felicia was a young child her father encouraged her to acquire a skill that she could do with her hands, that way even as she aged she would still be able to be productive and feel fulfilled. Felicia took her father’s adviceliterally and began typing courses in secondary school, putting her hands to good use. It was not long before Felicia combined her French studies and typing skills and began a career as a bilingual secretary for a construction company in Nigeria. Her work allowed her to see the results of her labor and she enjoyed it very much. After a few years, she left the construction company for an opportunity to do development work with Unicef. Her work, although interesting, was long-term focused and difficult to measure in impact. It was then that Felicia decided to return home to Ghana and pursue work with her hands.
Once Felicia returned home to Ghana she noticed that many products made in the country had poor or no labels. She conducted research on label making and intended to begin a professional label making business and improve the competitiveness of Ghanaian products on the international market. Yet, high costs for machines and other necessary resources made business difficult. Felicia was not ready to give up; instead, she began to independently make fabric labels for clothing companies in Thailand, Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka. The companies would send her an order with detailed descriptions of the desired label. Felicia would create the labels and then ship them to the clothing companies. The money was fair and Felicia was able to work with her hands and see the results of her labor. She worked in fabric label making for almost ten years. As time passed, the orders became irregular, which meant Felicia’s income was unpredictable. It was time for a change.
With fifty Ghana Cedis in hand, Felicia set out to begin her new business. This time it was toilet paper. There are certain products, no matter how poor the economy, that people will continue to need. Felicia determined toilet paper to be one of these products. In her research stage she bought and sold un-branded toilet paper to commercial companies. As she thought more about the production of toilet paper she realized that she could produce her own toilet paper out of recycled materials, preventing further depletion of Ghana’s forests and reducing the amount of waste littered around the country. Felicia found that there is enough paper and saw-dust improperly disposed in the country to successfully produce recycled toilet paper. In financial partnership with some family members, Felicia purchased the necessary machines and began renting an industrial facility. Excitement stirred as the work began. Felicia dreamed of one day employing many people and preventing saw dust and other waste from dirtying her beloved country.
Unfortunately the profit that came from the minimal production went mostly to rent, leaving little money for additional business costs. In hopes of rescuing her business, Felicia created a business plan and submitted it to several international companies. Many were interested but their demands and criteria were too cumbersome for current business capacity. During Felicia’s final few months working at the toilet paper factory she enrolled in Hopeline Institute’s twelve week SME training. It was the training that allowed Felicia to conceptualize her passion to incorporate her Christian faith into her business. She realized that even though she had made an effort to create time for fellowship among her employees, the Christian faith was not fully incorporated into the business. Unfortunately because of financial difficulties Felicia had to put business on hold and was unable to make improvements to the way the factory went about business as mission.
Putting her business on hold was not an easy decision for Felicia because she now viewed her business not only as a source of income but as a mission and ministry. She desired to use her God-given gifts and make a deep and lasting impact in the community. Not ready to give up hope just yet, but greatly disappointed by her business difficulties, Felicia began six months of reflection and prayer to determine if business was really what God wanted her to do. It did not take long for her God-given gift for innovation to strike once again. One day as Felicia was praying the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 came to her mind. Matthew chapter fourteen explains that after Jesus fed the crowd the disciples collected twelve baskets of the leftover food. Even Jesus found it important to make use of available resources and waste none. It was after this reminder that Felicia decided that her new business venture would be in recycled products and it would be called Twelve Baskets.
Twelve Baskets includes a product line of briquettes, shopping bags, recycled laundry soap, and non-recycled bath soap. Twelve Basket’s products reduce waste materials and support Ghanaian businesses. For example, the briquettes are made out of leftover saw dust from local carpentry shops. Twelve Baskets assists the carpenters by taking the sawdust waste. This prevents the sawdust from polluting local communities. As a result, Felicia has been able to hand press the sawdust briquettes and sell them to local kebab sellers as an alternative to charcoal. The kebab sellers enjoy purchasing the briquettes because they are more efficient, lasting longer and allowing for greater sales opportunities. A local metal workshop is now constructing a press for the briquettes which will give the metal workshop a new niche, improve Twelve Basket’s briquettes, and allow Felicia to train other individuals in recycled briquette making. This is just one of the company’s products and it already is having a positive ripple effect on the community.
It is the handmade soap, however, that is becoming one of Twelve Baskets signature items. The non- recycled soaps contain natural ingredients that are grown in Ghana such as palm, coconut, cocoa butter, and Shea. The product is quality and supports the local economy. In the next few weeks “Twelve Baskets” will begin a training program and guild for individuals interested in hand-making soap. The purpose of the training is to teach others how to produce soap and in the process transform their lives through the message of Christ, specifically targeting vulnerable women. Each training includes a Bible study on business as mission. In addition, the group will re-batch and recycle soap leftovers from local hotels to give to local orphanages. The hope for the training is that it will create a community of transformed, productive and committed people doing business to the glory of God
Felicia’s business plans are different this time around as a result of Hopeline’s SME training. She now diligently keeps her records and carefully considers costing and pricing. Had she done the same with her toilet paper business she may have prevented some of her financial difficulties and improved her business profit. Nevertheless, she now has the knowledge she needs for a successful and sustainable business. Her past difficulties have inspired her to mentor others. She recognizes that she would have been greatly assisted had she had a mentor. Felicia does not want others to experience similar difficulties and feels obligated to mentor others. Felicia is an official mentor for two participants from Hopeline’s SME Training. She will mentor these individuals in business development, distinctively focusing on product presentation and improvement. She also aims to use her soap making training and guild as a forum for mentoring. As Felicia sees it, her business boat has hit its fair share of waves. She has been battered in the process but her boat never capsized. Her sails were tattered but Jesus was and is her anchor. Jesus never did and never will let her boat capsize.