Fearless & Flexible: Winnifred Selby’s African Socio-Ecological Business
When she was 15-years-old, Winnifred Selby co-founded Ghana Bamboo Bikes, an initiative NGO that provides jobs and skills training for youth in rural Ghana through the manufacturing of bamboo bikes.
At 17-years-old, Winnifred also established her own business, Afrocentric Bamboo Initiative, manufacturing and marketing the bamboo bike model.
Now, at 19, Winnifred employs 30 young women and earns $10,000 a month exporting the bikes.
Despite her family’s struggles, Winnifred grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit, selling things at school to support her education She also has developed a fearless and flexible business mindset. She explains:
“I believe it is my inability to accept the status quo and my willingness to take risks that have been the most important factors in the success of my business. Like all entrepreneurs, I have been forced to choose between comfortable stagnation and unfamiliar change.”
“While change can seem daunting, I know that no matter how comfortable we might be and how much control we think we have, the ground beneath us is always shifting. New trends, technologies, and competition will continue to force us to adapt.”
“I continually push myself and my team to forgo the status quo and to be fearless and flexible in responding to new opportunities and challenges.”
Winnifred’s business is disrupting the status quo for youth in Ghana, especially for women. Her business is committed to promoting fair trade, treating people fairly and creating environmentally responsible products that help reduce waste.
Having set a strong foundation of socio-ecological values for her region and its inhabitants, Winnifred now wants to expand her company into a multinational enterprise.
“As an entrepreneur you try to strategize and plan and imagine what your company will become. Visualizing these goals is the first step towards achieving them. And I have a clear vision of where we are taking Afrocentric Bamboo Limited expanding to international markets, adding new product lines, creating new employment opportunities for young people especially women. I’m confident that the next five years will see great growth for the firm.”
Discussing how she defines her success, Winnifred says her “view of success continually evolves as a growth-minded entrepreneur…reaching one milestone just inspires me to set new goals and to work with my team to continue to move forward.”
“I see limitless potential for Afrocentric and my vision of our success constantly grows.”
In terms of her personal success, she explains that it has been closely tied to her company’s success and employee’s happiness.
“That’s one of the great joys of being a business owner – you can align your organization with the goals you want to achieve. And you can prioritize those things that are important to you and your team, like work-life balance, career development and personal enrichment. In this way, I am able to also define success by my happiness and that of my team.
Passionate about women pursuing business opportunities, Winnifred speaks from her heart:
“It is not easy to do what we do. To create a new business from nothing. You have to believe so strongly in what you are doing, to be so dedicated to it that you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. You have to be resourceful to work with little or no budgets, to think of ways to compete with bigger, more established organizations, and to figure out how you can make the most out of every opportunity.”
“You definitely sacrifice personal time and your own financial security, especially when you’re self-funded. However, my belief in the business I’m building and my pride in how far we’ve come and the team we’ve brought together, make me willing to do what is needed to continue to build the company. I have seen, and know I will continue to see, it pay off.”
In addition to pushing yourself and your team to take smart risks, Winnifred believes the other key elements to successfully starting and running a business are:
- Determination, passion and belief in your vision
- Surrounding yourself with the right people
- Defining and living by your core values
- Managing your money wisely
- Never stop learning.
‘Ultimately being an entrepreneur allows me to be in charge of my own destiny,” Winnifred said, “And there’s nothing better.”
Ghana Bamboo Bikes has earned numerous awards this year alone, including being named a 2014 Set Africa Fellow and a 2014 Anzisha Prize Fellow. Also in 2014, Winnifred was a finalist of the 2014 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards with Afrocentric Bamboo Initiative.
Winnifred’s co-founder is Bernice Dapaah, whom she developed Ghana Bamboo Bikes with from a Clinton Global Initiative University pledge with; if you missed it, be sure to read Bernice’s business story which we featured last week.