“Excuse me is your name Felicia?” I asked as I walked up to a young lady sitting at the entrance of the cramped workspace converted from a former shipping container.
“No, Felicia is inside” she responded, pointing into the dimly lit box.
“Hello Felicia, my name is Monica, we spoke on the phone.” The young lady looked up from her sewing machine, beads of sweat dripping off her brow as she greeted me enthusiastically “Hello, Monica, Akwaaba (Welcome in Twi) how can I help you? “.
This was my first conversation with Felicia. Hello, my name is Monica and I am a Peace Corps Volunteer who visited Accra for the first time in September 2011 and fell in love almost overnight with the Ghanaian fashion scene. You see, at the time I was living in Mali and most women there did not wear western clothes and the tailors (predominately men) found it morally and technically challenging to create the kind of attire I wanted. But now I was in Ghana and the women wore suits to work and form-fitting pencil skirts. I was in seventh heaven and Felicia was going to be my gateway to paradise.
I had been referred to Felicia by Hannah, a young lady who works at Woodin, a very popular fabric store in Ghana. Hannah told me that she had been a client of Felicia’s for several years and was always very satisfied with her work. With Hannah’s recommendation, and Felicia’s number, I soon became a client and in turn recommended Felicia to countless friends and acquaintances.
A year later I find myself living in Ghana and as my wardrobe grew thanks to Felicia’s creative handwork, so did our friendship. As I brought more and more friends to her shop I started to learn Felicia’s story. Felicia had travelled a mixed road of disappointment, self-realization and determination to become the self-made woman she is today. She now owns a fashion design studio and a hair salon, allowing her to employ four other women. She attributes much of her success to God and to her own perseverance in pushing herself to greater and greater success.
Felicia Nana Aseidu Akrofi was born on Friday July 1, 1987 at the Osu Maternity home. While Felicia’s parents divorced only six months after her birth – which meant she was raised by a single mother – this didn’t put a heavy strain on the relationship between herself and her father who lived only a few minutes away from her childhood home in Osu, Accra. Her parents had no formal education and were also self-made. Her father was a tailor and her mother a food vendor, and they both taught Felicia and her four siblings the importance of working hard and taking care of one’s family.
At the young age of 10, Felicia could be found late in the evening in her father’s workshop sewing together scraps of material for fashion wear for her friends and her friends’ dolls. Felicia’s dream was to be a journalist and she saw sewing as merely a hobby not a possible career. Yet when Felicia entered high school, it soon became apparent to her that journalism was a dream that wouldn’t be her future because there simply wasn’t enough money to send her to university. Felicia had to decide on another course for her life.
After high school Felicia thought long and hard for almost a year about what she should take up as a career. She knew she was good at sewing and thought she should at least make some attempt at formal training. She recalled the days spent shopping in the market with her friends and buying second hand clothes, altering them and creating whole new designs, but until this point Felicia had never had any formal training in sewing.
She approached her mother for help in becoming the apprentice of a family friend who had been a seamstress for many years and had trained many young women in the local area. Felicia found the work exciting and learnt even the trickiest of sewing techniques quickly. After a year of formal training and three years of crafting her skill, Felicia made the life-changing decision of opening her own shop.
Opening her shop was a labor of love. She first began by seeing clients in her mother’s home, through word of mouth and with her commitment to producing the very best products her business flourished. In 2004, after saving 1,000 ghc ($529), Felicia converted a small shipping container in her mother’s compound and began receiving clients. This is where I would meet her almost seven years later. While most women would bathe in the success that Felicia enjoyed, she wanted more and was thinking of what to do next.
Felicia says “God started blessing me with clients but the surroundings weren’t right for clients. I wanted my clients to be comfortable and have some place to sit, I wanted my own space.” In 2011, that’s just what she did. Two streets away from where she grew up, Felicia opened her own fashion design studio. When asked why she calls herself a designer and not a tailor, Felicia gives a quick spirited response: “Tailors just sew what you bring them, they have no input. As a fashion designer I give my clients ideas based on their [body] structure, their style, and their fabric.”
Yet even with this success Felicia’s not done yet. She is a wife and the mother of two young boys and even though 7 months pregnant with her third child, has still found time for her latest venture – a beauty salon. She says “I want to give my clients the total package, I love making women beautiful and now I have another way to do that”.
Felicia attributes her success to God and hard work. She says “I feel great and am always happy owning my own business because at long last I’ve really made it”. Felicia is committed to running her business for years to come because it enables her to provide for the education of her children and provide them with the opportunities she didn’t have when growing up. “I don’t want them to not be able to follow their dream because I can’t afford it” she says.
What advice does Felicia have for young women and girls?
“Stay focused and pray for God to help you discover your talents and the rest is up to you”.