Featured

Pop Up Markets- My First Experience

By January 2017, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try participating in a Pop Up Market. In case you are wondering, a Pop Up Market is basically a market to reach a specific audience or to appear in a neighbourhood for a particular period to enable makers including artists, designers, bakers, farmers and or vendors of mostly food items, antique products or handmade products to sell their merchandise. Depending on the nature of the individual Pop-Up Market, it might be a one-time event or might occur several times throughout the year.

I had never been to a Pop Up Market but I had seen several adverts online and decided to give it a try. My main aim as a maker and designer was to create awareness about our unique products and brand, interact first hand with our customers, listen to their suggestions and input on how to make the brand soar, make some sales and most importantly have fun.

All this while, Oye Bags & Clothing was a side hustle and I was a full time banker. This meant we could only participate in Pop Up Markets on weekends or holidays therefore, we had to plan and build stock someway somehow. I was very determined this will work so I put in my very best effort. Before Oye Bags and Clothing started selling at Pop Up Markets, you could only purchase our products from our brick and mortar store in Sakaman,Hyde Street,Accra. I must confess human traffic to the shop was quite low so this was one of our ways to improve the situation.

Our first Pop Up Event was on 6th March 2017 at Crystal Park, East Legon. I was quite anxious and didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t sleep much the night before because my brains were super active trying to prepare and process information for the next days event. We parked all the necessary items into my Hyundai ix 35 and we were ready to hit the road. I started the car and for some reason, the car wont start! This had never ever happened to me, not my faithful, loyal Awurassie (pet name for my car. I actually named her after myself because I know what she’s been through yet she stands tall and pushes harder like a bull). To my surprise, the car decided not to start that morning. Then I remembered I hadn’t done the routine car servicing in a while. Well, that wasn’t going to be a show stopper for me. Those who know me will tell you I don’t take no for an answer. Everything and anything is possible. I left the car just where it was parked and went knocking on my neighbour’s door.

My neighbour, whose name I don’t even know came to our rescue. He offered to give us a ride to a point then we could get a taxi and carry on with the trip to East Legon, Crystal Park for the pop up market. That gentleman was actually God sent. He drove us all the way to East Legon, Crystal Park and you can imagine how thankful I was to him. We were lucky to get to the venue in good time and we immediately started our set up. I had read a little on how to prepare for pop up markets but truth be told, I was clueless about how to set up. My able assistant Sandra and myself managed to set up to the best of our ability and we sat down with high hopes ready for people to flock to buy our merchandise. That was my prayer in the morning and I was super hopeful, positive and ready to receive my biggest sales since I started making bags.

My First Pop Up Market

By 3pm, I was shattered. We had sold just 3 small items which couldn’t cater for the amount we spent on registration for the event, the lunch we had enjoyed and our return trip home. Then it started to rain! It rained cats and dogs and goats!! All this while, not only was I worried about the low sales but I was also worried about my car, how we would make it back home and even to my Bank job the next day. Although I had been assured that it will be delivered to me before the end of the market, I wasn’t too sure because whatever happened earlier in the morning seemed like a major fault and the thought of this alone was quite disturbing. As I sat down with a long face counting my loss, one vendor whose name I later on found out to be Clara of Clatural Wear told me not to give up. Infact she shared a beautiful smile with me and encouraged me. I latched onto her words and remained hopeful.

After the rains, we decided to close shop and take a taxi home even though there were still people on the market. Whilst we were packing, a familiar face passed by and as she saw our bags, she drew closer and she called her friends to come over to our stand. She loved our bags!! Ama Abebrese loved our designs and she kept saying they were unique and beautiful. That was all I needed, encouragement from a sister. She encouraged us to continue our hassle and She has been an awesome support to the Oye Brand ever since.

Although my first experience at a pop up market didn’t turn out as I expected, these are the few lessons I took home:

A Pop Up market is a fine place to meet people, an opportunity to interact and network with other makers, buy raw materials needed for your craft and even get information on your industry as a maker.

It also offers you the opportunity to get first hand information on customer demands. It is also an opportunity to meet both present and future buyers as well as wholesale buyers.

As a maker or vendor, be selective in your choice of pop up markets you participate in and invest in your set up. Your set up speaks loads to your potential buyers.

Never miss the routine oil change and servicing of your vehicle otherwise it will disappoint when you need it most.

Selewa Market

COVID DIARIES-JUNE 2020

Half year already. I am restraining myself from labelling the year as we are 6 months away from the end of the year and the Universe can tip events in our favour. I woke up this morning feeling the need to document my journey as an entrepreneur and a small business owner. I have resolved to document my success and failures as honestly as possible to serve as a blue print for posterity; those to come after me. Those who will have the courage to leave formal employment into self-employment. So here I am sitting in my shop motivated to record this journey of Entrepreneurship.

For most of the occurrences this year, not even in my wildest dream could I have imagined them. Its June and am totally clueless as to how the rest of the year will pan out. Not like I have any special ability to predict events of the future but as an Entrepreneur or small business owner, you mostly set targets, plan, strategize and implement on a very regular basis either by yourself if you are the sole employer and employee or by the Management team if there are others involved. This year has been different. All the plans and projections have gone haywire. We have had to innovate just to stay afloat. In the middle of the lockdown,we resorted to making masks. We decided to take part in the governments initiative to produce 3 million masks and PPE’s as a way of contributing our quota in the fight towards the pandemic. We produced a total of 5,000 masks, not bad for our size i must say. It was a herculean task but by the time we completed, we felt fulfilled.

Due to Corona Virus, we closed our shop on 17TH March 2020 even before the Government declared a lockdown because sales was generally low and traffic to the shop had greatly reduced. We were also worried for the safety and health of our staff so we stopped production and closed our two shops temporarily to monitor the situation until taking any further action. Two weeks into our self declared lockdown, the government instituted the lockdown and we had to remain indoors for another 3 weeks. Five weeks of zero sales, this was not considered in our budget for 2020. Luckily, we are out of lock down and the government is beginning to ease some of the restrictions but we are still very cautious as the virus is still here with us. Sales has started picking up gradually.

The past few months have been like a roller coaster ride. Exciting, exhilarating yet very unpredicted and even scary. Like most small businesses, we started off the year with a sales projection and a plan of how to achieve this target. Some of the items on our to-do list for 2020 includes increasing online sales through our social media accounts mainly Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp as well as our website. Also on our list is increasing traffic to our shop in Dansoman and Airport Residential by hosting open studio events, sample sales as well as clearance sales. We also plan to increase our stockist and make our products much more available to our customers both online and at various boutiques/shops within Ghana and outside Ghana. Based on previous years’ events, we also have a schedule of sales events/pop markets to attend both locally and abroad.

As I write, our shop at Airport Residential has been closed since March 17th. We are working with our core staff which includes myself and one sales person and one production member.  All our apprentices are home and production is at an all-time low. Even as we adjust to the new normal with Corona Virus, we are engaging our customers more aggressively through our social media accounts and our website. We have had to change to suit current situation. This is key for every business owner, the ability to change when need be.

Talk about unrealised dreams, unachieved targets, unbudgeted expenses, pending trips, cancelled events; nothing is surprising anymore. How bad can things get? This is not a pity party or an all gloomy picture. We are optimistic that we will come out stronger and better. I still have some faith that all of this will work out for our good. Hope keeps our dreams alive and prevents us from giving up no matter how bad the situation is. So I choose to hold on and still have hope that definitely, things will get better. This is my honest report of 2020 so far.

Pop Up Africa-Spitalfields London


MY NEW YEAR RESOLUTION

Gradually the year has come to a close and we have been given a fine opportunity to start afresh. I am always excited when one year closes and we are ushered into a new year because its the beginning of new opportunities. You get to put all the failures and challenges of the previous year behind you and you surge on into a new year, full of new opportunities, new beginnings and new challenges. We begin the year with a lot of hope that whatever didn’t work well in the previous year will yield a better results in the new year.

For me, 2018 was a classroom session for me. It was a learning period to imbibe all the relevant knowledge from industry players in arts and craft. I learnt from mostly other artists, suppliers of raw materials, event organisers, artisans and most importantly my customers who have taught me a lot. Most of my designs are direct inspiration from my daily experiences and interactions with my customers. I also gathered a lot of knowledge from books I read in 2018. I read mostly on entrepreneurship, wealth creation, I read on how to enhance my creative abilities and how to be a better person. With regards to attitudinal changes, I chose gratitude in place of complaining about life and I can testify that this is one of the best things that happened to me in 2018. I learnt to see the beauty in life and all around rather than the countless problems that I can possibly lay a finger on in my life. In 2018, I chose to walk by faith and resist any negativity. I avoided people who were negative and always sulking about life. I avoided people who were full of fear and who will possibly transfer their fear to me.

I am not the type who makes resolutions at the beginning of the year and swear to stick to them. Am pretty much the one who lives life correcting my mistakes on a daily basis and resolving to do what will help me and avoiding what wont help me on a daily basis. I literally make resolutions everyday. This strategy has worked for me and so I am not changing it.

Lets grind on, lets stay positive and maintain a spirit of gratitude. I am chalking series of victories in 2019. Keep watching this space.

My year in retrospect- 2018

I started off 2018 as a banker and 12 months down the line, I write as a full time maker and an artist. My creative self has taken over my whole being and I honestly can’t imagine life without creating. Sometimes I wonder how I sailed through as a banker for 12 years. For a greater part of those years, I very much enjoyed my routine but this dwindled with time. I looked forward to the day I will be literally free from 9-5 confinement.

I found my peace in June this year when I decided to quit banking and become a full time maker and artist. I decided to take my side hustle more seriously and I haven’t regretted my action.

Oye Bags & Clothing is a Ghanaian owned company. We make bags from leather, African Print fabric, recycled jute fabric, handwoven fabrics from Ghana and other parts of Africa. Our objective is to train and create a livelihood for the youth whilst sharing our heritage and our culture through our craft.

Since June, we have made several unique pieces for our customers in Ghana and abroad. We have shared our culture as Africans and Ghanaians with our customers abroad and in Ghana. We have sent smiles to various homes through our pieces.

The past six months has been a jolly ride. We participated in local Pop Ups-once every first Saturday at Dubois Centre in Accra, we were at Spitalfields, London for a Pop Up Shop in May. We were also at a Pop Up Market in New York in May. We participated in Selewa Pop Up Market-East Legon Accra in August for 2 days, we also took part in the week long Flower and Garden Fair in Accra as well as the Accra food Festival also in the month of August. In the month of June & September, we had a two week pop up shop at African Regent Hotel in Accra. For most part of the summer and fall, from May to November, we were also in Boston, New England Open Market and Sowa Market respectively. In all of this we accomplished this feat with a team of 10 individuals who make up both the production and marketing team. Individuals who share in a dream and driven by passion and the desire to succeed.

I must admit that although its been challenging, its been a fun ride of freedom, the absence of fear and the presence of peace. Looking forward to a fruitful new year. A year full of opportunities and a lot more creative ideas.

Handmade with Love

Just one of those days that I generally feel down and tired but I don’t allow myself to feel same because I have a lot to be grateful for. I have left formal employment the past six months. I quit my work as a Relationship Manager with a bank for over twelve years. I got tired, that is why I left. I felt so restricted and unhappy. Generally felt morose on a daily basis.

Thankfully I heard a proverb one day which changed my life. ‘IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WHERE YOU ARE, MOVE! BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A TREE’. This is what changed my life.

I’ve been dreaming of having my own blog forever!! To enable me share my journey from a 9-5 lifestyle to a self employed lifestyle.

Over the past six months, I have worked on my passion of creating. This is what I get satisfaction from. I create handmade bags from upcycled leather, recycled materials, African print, jute fabric and many others. I create my designs with other artisans and these finished products are sold online, mainly on our Instagram page, in our outlets (we currently have two shops) and at pop up events. It has been one hell of a journey and sometimes I even wonder why I didn’t quit much earlier.

Anyway, I  generally feel morose today because sales wasn’t as expected at a pop up event we attended today. Below is a picture of my assistant at our Pop Up shop.

 

popup

 

We didn’t sell as much as we were expecting although it seemed customer turnout was quite impressive. I don’t know how to explain this but my observation of the customers behaviour was that:

  1. They either did not want to buy any gifts this Christmas
  2. They were low on cash
  3. They were waiting to shop last minute or better still
  4. They had already shopped for gifts.

I must acknowledge however that, most customers spent on items from the food vendors mainly confectionery, spices, nuts and other baked products. The Bolga Baskets was also quite popular at today’s event. Most buyers loved the straw baskets. In all, it was a good day. I have grown to be grateful for each passing day, and to appreciate the very gift of life and its beauty all around. My otherwise morose day was however lightened up when my grandson came by to my pop up shop. In all, I had a good day and I thank God for that

0028f00f-e635-4f00-9686-a27ea5b11b1d

 

My Journey

My name is Essie Kittoe, born on the 4th of May; married with 3 energetic boys. I love fabrics! I love leather, woven fabrics, knitted fabrics, netted fabrics, cotton, African print fabrics… the list is endless. My love for fabrics led me into my hobby of making bags and other clothing accessories which has now turned into a business. Oye’ is a fante word (Fante is a dialect in Akan language spoken in southern part of Ghana) which means ‘its good’.  Oye’ started as a hobby of designing and making bags and other clothing accessories for relations abroad.

We create an array of African bags and accessories from a fine selection of local fabrics and materials. Our pieces are crafted to radiate both contemporary and the pure African styles using very colourful fabrics and simple technics. Every product is handmade by local craftmen who use very basic methods with the aim of maintaining originality.

Our handmade bags are predominantly made from local wax print, tie dye fabrics, kente fabrics; other woven fabrics all made locally and sometimes recycled cocoa sacks and leather. Unlike mass production bags, our bags are pieces of art with individual identities thus each bag is distinct and unique in every way. Our designs are captivating, truly African as well as contemporary and radiate the bright African Sun.

Oye’ has provided a livelihood for our tailors and craftsmen who otherwise used to wait for customers to walk into their shops to order for items to be made.  These same craftsmen have used their skills to make items for sale and thus have gained access to a larger market and a wider client base.  A banker who will otherwise sit in an air-conditioned office and appraise loan request of customers has found greater fulfilment from assisting these tailors with designing and marketing intriguing African bags and accessories all over the world.

We list our products on online markets mainly Etsy.  We also sell using social media platforms mainly Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Currently, we have one brick and mortar store, we are currently working on an online shop which will enable our customers order for products online. We also take part in pop up markets at least once every month to sell our items. Before each event, we send out invites to our existing client base and run promoted advertisements on our facebook and Instagram pages. This helps in directing traffic to our pop up market stands.

Currently, the team is made up of four workers which include two craftsmen, one sales person and myself, in charge of design and marketing.