A lot of retirees in Ghana habour mixed reactions and thoughts when it’s time to finally quit active service. A period to relax but also frought with a cocktail of uncertainties.
For many, this phase of life would mean withdrawing from economic activities and depending on either a pension scheme or children if any for their upkeep.
But for Mrs. Victoria Duah Honu, retiring from active service was just an entrant to another phase of life- an opportunity to launch a new business.
Mrs Duah Honu, 61, spent over 30 years of her life in South Africa and with all her children now adults and moved out of their home, she planned to finally retire in her native Ghana.
In March 2017, she started preparations and by November same year, she was back and back for good.
Having first set foot in South Africa (Eastern Cape) with her husband in 1985, (The same year in which Denis Goldberg, the South African social campaigner, active in the struggle against apartheid imprisoned for 22 years was released), she worked as a nurse for 8 years but hit a snag as she started a family, and striving for a work-life balance became almost impossible to achieve.
“I couldn’t continue with my profession so I decided to do business. I enrolled in a hair dressing school and set up a salon in 1996. I was the first Ghanaian or foreigner in Pretoria to have opened a salon,” she said in an unadulterated Akan language which made it unnoticeable that she lived in South Africa for 3 decades.
As the hairdressing salon (African Beauty) progressed, she added an apparel business (Images d’afrique) after friends always showered her with compliments whenever she donned her African outfits from Ghana.
Now with two businesses she had full control of under her sleeves, she had time to take raise her 3 boys and was able to generate revenue too.
In 2017 with all her children gowned up and moved out, she retired to Ghana with no planned means of survival except for her savings and a leap of faith.
In Ghana, she kept herself busy by taking care of her grandchildren and designing home decorative pieces for her family.
With the passage of time, family and friends noticed her hidden talent, creativity and consistency in her design patterns and encouraged her to launch a home décor business.
“I loved arranging and making decorative pieces at home so I often designed and sew scatter cushions at my leisure time. Family and friends started admiring them when they visited and encouraged me to take a business approach,” she told Business World Ghana in an interview.
“So I started working on it: sourcing African print fabrics, accessories and started cutting, designing and sewing for sale.”
Setting up her business is hardly a given having managed two successful businesses in South Africa.
She harboured no doubts as she clearly posits that,” I know getting into business especially at my age is a risk and I’m determined to make it work”
She clearly admits that her business isn’t immune to competition in the industry and has decided that to capture market and stay on top, her products must stand out and at no princely costs.
Realising that most homes in Ghana she visited had same or similar décor because they are purchased from same shops, she is capitalising on that gap to make her authentic African inspired décor pieces the product of choice for many homes.
Currently her start up, Vicky’s Home, produces scatter cushions, throw pillows, runners, throw overs and towels but if she had her way, she would include furniture, import fabrics from other African countries, design and export globally.
Despite her age, she is very much in tune with technology with her user-friendly business website and social media pages open to orders.
She had a piece of advice for retirees who believe life ends after pension.
“You may never know how long you would live on earth after retirement. You should get something to do,” she said, adding that,“ Although your children can support you, it may not be enough so it’s important to have some job to cater for your basic needs .You wouldn’t have to wait for your children month end before you can make any financial decision.”
Mrs Duah Honu sought to breathe happiness, class and a touch of Africaness in her home and that of her family. Today, she’s lighting up many Ghanaian homes with her creativity and inspirational pieces of work.
Photo- Nana Darkoaa
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng / Business World Ghana