How fashion saved me and my family
When life knocks you down, you pick yourself up, brush off the dust and move on. This was what 29-year old Senyo Gokah did when life dealt him a blow that destabilized his world.
Born to parents who were always in disagreement with each other, and quarreling incessantly, it was only a matter of time before they buckled under the pressure of marriage.
When Senyo was three years, his parents separated. As young as he was, all he knew was suddenly his father was nowhere to be found, and the only parent he knew was his mother. Being a single parent, she did her best to take care of him and his siblings.
Getting money to put food on the table was not easy, but the mother who determined her children would not sleep on an empty stomach, pulled strings to feed her children.
It is every child’s right to have a good education in order to get a good foundation for their future. In Senyo’s case, his mother could only see him up to the Senior High level. “I had six older siblings that my mother was single-handedly taking care of. When I completed senior high, there was no money for me to further my education. I had to watch with pain, my friends going to training colleges and universities. I knew I couldn’t force my mother to break her back in a bid to get me in school.”
Deciding not to sit idle at home, but find something to do with his life, he decided to go into a business he was passionate about. “My senior brother was a fashion designer, and hanging around him all the time made me develop a passion for it. When I am in town, I will observe the clothes of passers-by and judge whether they were done well or not. I loved anything fashion and so when it became obvious I was not going back to school, I decided to be a fashion designer. If I had known I would end up a fashion designer, I would have studied clothing and textiles in Senior High School.”
Having decided on the next step to take in his life, Senyo felt it was high time he pitched camp somewhere other than his hometown where he had grown up. “I moved to Accra to find a good fashion school to attend. My family pulled their resources together to find me some money to enable me pay for my tuition.
I attended Tetteh Plahar School of Fashion for two and a half years. I decided I wasn’t going to rush into starting my own business, but rather give myself time to learn more. I joined Smart Clothing, a tailoring company, to polish up the skills I had acquired; I learned there for a year.
And then I went to Hall of Peters at Cantonments to spend another year and half, learning all I could to better equip me for my own business.”
After he was done with his schooling, Senyo had to face the task of setting up his own business. “It was not easy. I had no money to rent a container or buy equipment to set up a new place. I had no other option than to start small in my bedroom. People in the area would bring their materials and I would sew for them for a meager sum of money.
With that, I became popular and had lots of jobs. I did that for over 3 years. Upon discussion with my sister one day, I moved into one of her shops in front of our house. I had saved a little money, and knowing the kind of set-up I had in mind, I needed a loan to top it up.
After renovating and furnishing my shop, I had spent well over Ghc 2,500. But my customers have increased because I am more visible now. So far, God has been good to me.”
Most people believe there is freedom in being your own boss; you can work according to your own time. Senyo tells us nothing could be farther from the truth. “If you want to start your own business just because you want to work as and when you want to, that is a bad idea.
You need to be very disciplined if you are your own boss, if you want people to take you seriously and respect your art, act as though you are working for a stern boss. Open your shop on time, respect customers’ deadlines and be neat with your clothes.
This way, you can have your peace of mind.”
Gokah tells Weekend Sun some of the challenges he faces, especially with customers. “Some customers can be very demanding and haughty when they do not get what they want. You can agree on a certain time for them to come for their finished dresses, but due to unforeseen circumstances like power outage, you cannot finish on time.
The way they can insult you…it is just sad. They can get so angry to the point of picking their materials and walking off, and nothing you do or say will make them calm down.
“We work with the principle that the customer is always right and so we let things like that slide. Generally some people are just difficult to work with but I just have to manage to get them what they want in order to retain them as customers.”
On the question of how lucrative his job is, Senyo responded with a smile. “I can say for a fact that I do not regret becoming a fashion designer. As at now, the least amount of money I charge for a work done is Ghc70.00; it could be higher depending on the kind of fabric you have and the style you want.
Even though a few customers complain that I charge too much, they keep bringing me materials to sew for them. This is because of the quality I bring to my work. I pay attention into detail and I do exactly what the customer wants. If the jobs keep coming, the money will keep flowing in.”
Senyo Gokah says he sees himself as a toddler in the business. “There are big names in this industry and although I have made quite a name for myself in my neighbourhood and surroundings, I believe I have a lot more to do in order to be recognized nationally. I know with hard work, I will definitely get there.
All that matters, for now, is that I can feed myself and take care of my mother, and help other people who need it. It will get to a time when I will realize my dream of owning a number of shops where you can get my already made clothing to buy at an affordable price. I will be hosting fashion shows in and outside Ghana.”
Senyo advises the youth not to look to authorities to find them jobs as that could delay their progress. “If you get the opportunity to get a degree, do not sit with your hands in between your legs, waiting for a job to fall into your laps.
When you apply and you do not get, start looking at something you know how to do very well. If it can bring some little money into your pocket, go ahead and start small. With time, you will realize you don’t even need a white-collar job to make it. It is now the case of each one for himself, God for us all.”
by harriet OKYERE