Mabel Suglo is a social entrepreneur and a final year student from the University for Development Studies, Tamale where she currently pursues her Bachelors of Education in Health Science.
A 2015 Anzisha Prize Fellow and member of the Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum, Mabel is an ardent result-oriented development professional with a passion for connecting communities with resources to effect change and create opportunities for people with disabilities from deprived communities in Ghana.
She is the co-founder of the Eco-Shoes www.ecoshoesgh.com a social enterprise that manufactures and sells durable and versatile footwear made from up-cycled tires and fabric waste. It creates jobs that benefit people with disabilities and the communities in which they live while inspiring people to get creative about re-using materials, extending their life-cycle and at the same time contributing to waste reduction.
This great work of hers enabled her to get selected and invited to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 hosted by Barack Obama at the Stanford University in California. She was also recognized by the Ghana Tertiary Women’s Network under the auspices of Echos of Leadership as the Ghana Tertiary Woman Social Entrepreneur.
She spends much of her free time mentoring and counseling young women through schools.
We are delighted to have her on the site to let us know that she can do much more despite being a female in a male dominated profession. Read below:
Please introduce yourself – The way you want the world to know you.
My name is Mabel Suglo, 23 years old, the last born and girl of Mr and Mrs Suglo. Born in Jirapa in the Upper West region of Ghana but hails from Nanville in the same Region. I grew up in so many places in the Upper West Region of Ghana as a result of mummy being transferred from one town to another because of work.
I had my Basic and Junior High School Education from the Lawra Methodist Primary School and Junior high school respectively (2000-2009), went to Angel Educational Complex in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana in September 2009 and finally left for Ghanata Senior High school in September 2010 where I finally graduated in 2013. I am currently a final year student studying BEd Health Science from the University for Development Studies, Tamale-Ghana.
How did you get into shoe and bag business and how long have you been in it?
Getting into shoes and bags I can say was kind of accidental because even though I wanted to go into business someday, I had no idea as to what industry it would be. I decided to focus on the vulnerable in the society, especially people with disability, as these people have been stigmatized and marginalized in our society for so long, driving the inspiration from my own late grandma.
I got into the shoes and bags business as a result of what people with disabilities I met on the street could do. For it happened that I met one who went to school to learn skills in making sandals and slippers but due to lack of finance to work or do something meaningful with his skills, he took to begging on the streets to make ends meet and the skills began fading for lack of practice.
More so, car tires as one principal raw material was readily available. When not burned, they are just heaped up causing water to collect in them and breed mosquitoes which causes malaria and respiratory diseases when burnt, they pollute the air. But when sourced sustain-ably, these old car tires are very strong and durable.
Eco-Shoes was birthed on the 6th of September, 2013 but commenced production in January 2014. The bags we began producing those in 2015 as a way of diversifying and creating revenue streams.
You made mention of training and empowering the disabled which is quite noble, but we would like to know, what inspired the vision?
My Inspiration came from the fact that my grandma ( being a leprosy patient with barely a thump) defied all odds and stigmatization and was able to cultivate food crops on a piece of land to feed my mum and her grandchild. So I believe that if we the able ones first of all give these people with disabilities the chance coupled with the right kind of resources they will be able to do amazingly well. The establishment of Eco-Shoes have brightened that gap and proven that belief right.
Do you encounter any form of challenge for being a female in this business?
Well, being a female entrepreneur presents different hurdles especially in our society where entrepreneurship was once considered as a man’s domain until the tide shifted.
The first challenge comes from my own family and friends who did not take me seriously. When I started this, they saw my venture as a hobby rather than a bonfire business. The other challenge is the act of raising capital as a female entrepreneur and a university student.
Female entrepreneurs generally find it difficult to raise capital or obtain a bank loan because investors and bankers would rather risk their venture capital with male entrepreneurs than female. I have to strive to prove my competence and credibility over time when I need capital injection to fulfill some contracts. The other is the stress and stiff competition associated with running a business.
The entrepreneurial process of building a business from scratch entails hard work, commitment and persistence. As you know, business is a game of ‘dog eat dog’ thus to survive, you have to be tough! These are the challenges that I have to deal with over time.
So far, how many people with disabilities have you been able to train?
We have trained and employed 13 people now.
And do you have a platform for monitoring their progress even after they’ve been empowered?
All of them are currently working for us so they are being closely monitored and assisted to live independent lives.
You are mostly captured wearing ankara, have you considered expanding the business but still making use of the recycled materials?
I am a Pan-Africanist and a big supporter of other social entrepreneurs so I always believe in patronizing the goods of other entrepreneurs. Apart from the shoes we also manufacture bags, necklace and other accessories which are all made from fabric waste, and other sustain-ably sourced raw materials.
What are your favorite SDG’s and why?
All the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are very important and linked to each other. I do not have any particular favorite but since my work is geared towards the SDG’s 1, 8 and 13 I am committed to contribute my widows mite towards that.
How do you think the SDG’s can work here in Ghana?
It is a matter of committing to it to ensure that by the year 2030 we shall meet those goals in our own small way. We did our part in the MDG’s where we excelled in some areas and did not do well in others, so taking the same zeal and commitment with which we excelled in some aspects of the MDG’s, we can do so with the SDG’s.
You made mention of making use of recycled tires and scrap fabrics for your business, how readily available are these materials?
They are found abundantly all over the place.
And how are you able to source them?
We use trained young people to source them for us and we pay them. This also enable them to have a source of livelihood and sustainable job skills.
What is it about you that not a lot of people know?
I maintain three primary residence in Ghana and shared my time equally between Tamale where I attend college, at Kumasi where my business is and in Accra where my sister is. My parent stays in Wa.
What is the one thing you want to tell Ghanaian Youths looking to make a difference?
They should first of all believe in God and themselves knowing they are the only person that can stop themselves. They should also understand the challenges of any particular industry they want to go into and be ready not to give up on the road to success. It is indeed challenging but they should always be determined and persevere.
How can people reach you or learn about your work?
They can contact me via [email protected] or via the web address www.ecoshoesgh.com