By Rebecca Wolfe
The light flickers on, a fluorescent hum filling the kitchen, the beams reflecting off of the metal oven and neat stacks of pots and pans. The world outside the little window is dark, dawn not having yet arrived in Swedru. Antoinette sets down her bag, lifts the string of her red apron over her head, and sets to work, singing as she goes.
Antoinette Agyare is a chef, as well as creator, bookkeeper, and manager for her restaurant and catering business in the Central Region of Ghana. She began the business in 2011, working out of her home to support her two adopted children, an older boy and younger girl. Having studied accounting at Accra Polytechnic University, she knew her way around business finance, and chose her endeavor wisely.
Aside from the sagacity of the investment, it was a lifelong love for cooking that led the then-thirty-one-year-old into the food business. Entering the field with a strong repertoire of recipes and techniques, she was able to create an expansive menu from the get-go, offering a variety of local and continental dishes.
It was not too long after starting her business that Antoinette was able to raise the fund to construct a separate, commercial kitchen space. This new space allowed her to expand her company, taking on larger catering orders. As her business has grown, she has been able to enlarge her workforce to include several other local women. Six years after her first order, Antoinette’s team consists of herself, two other permanent staff members, and three contract workers for special events.
This last year, Antoinette’s equipment began to grow old, and her ability to fill special orders became limited. In order to keep her business growing and expanding as it had been, she needed a financial boost to purchase new kitchen gear. She heard about Zidisha from a man named Fredrick, another Swedru entrepreneur and Zidisha borrower, and wanted to give it a shot. Fredrick invited her to the platform and she put up her loan application. With her loan quickly and fully funded, Antoinette had $300 to invest in her kitchen.
With the purchase of new pastry equipment, Antoinette’s business grew. She was able to meet higher demand for wedding and birthday orders, and more and more of these orders came in. Antoinette’s loan was paid back with ease, the funding having supported her business so well. “The first loan,” she says, “was very helpful to my business. It enabled me to acquire more equipment and food stuffs to be able to meet higher demands. This has made me more productive in my business and also helped me meet customers satisfaction all the time.”
In September, Antoinette sought to expand her growing business even more and applied for her second Zidisha loan. The response from lenders was quick and amazing, with twenty-five different people coming together to finance the $440 loan. “Antoinette,” a woman named Elena wrote on the discussion page, “Good luck to you in getting your loan fully funded! It’s amazing to see that you care for adopted children, employ other women, and are learning so much about running a successful business. It’s very courageous to pursue so many things.” With her second loan fully funded, Antoinette says she was able to “improve on the services I render to my clients and community,” helping “improve on the standard of living for myself and my two adopted kids.”
Antoinette’s fourteen-hour work day is a long one, spent standing over a hot stove, planning menus, and organizing deliveries and preparation for large events. The life of an entrepreneur is one that requires fortitude and, as a wise lender mentioned, courage. Antoinette has plenty of both. She is an amazing mother, chef, and businesswoman, driving change in her community as she serves up delicious food, gainful employment, and a better life for her children.
If you would like to help boost the business of another entrepreneur, head over to our loans page and help fund a businessperson’s dream.