It is another Konnect Africa interview. Today, we have with us a writer, speaker and social entrepreneur from Ghana. His name is Divine Komla Kpe.
In this interview, we gain insights as to how he’s grown into the man that he is today.
Please tell us about Divine Komla Kpe – family, ethnicity, education, base/location.
Divine Komla Kpe is a 26-year-old Educator, Business Writer, Speaker and Social Entrepreneur from Volta Region in the Republic of Ghana. My father was a stenographer and my mum, a trader – all of blessed memory. I’m to them the last of seven children. Actually, I was told they had wanted to keep the number to six, but by God’s own design, after six years of the sixth child– Francis, my brother, – “accidentally,” my mum got pregnant again, and here I am. I had my primary and junior high education in Have, a town in the Volta Region of Ghana. I was always among the top three students in class, and always hold a position as well. I recall the assistant senior school prefect position I held in Junior High School (JHS) to the admiration of many colleagues and teachers. I proceeded to Kpedze, a border town to Togo, for my secondary school education. I did well there too – I was awarded a scholarship, and won the Best English and Geography Student during our 46th Speech and Prize Given Day.
After successful completion of secondary school, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) offered me free admission to read Land Economy – a career path I’d never envisaged. In fact, throughout my SHS, becoming an economist was my dream. I think it was because of the love I had for the subject and also, the then Minister for Finance and Economy Planning, Hon. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, was my most admired state official. I wanted to hold his portfolio one day. (Laughing). But they didn’t have to give me what I wanted, after all, I didn’t apply to the school in the first place; they freely gave it to me based on my performance in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). However, I couldn’t utilize that opportunity, and had to apply to a teacher training school, St. Francis College of Education. I did my very best there too: representing my Hall for inter-halls debate/quiz competitions, and athletics. I was active in the Creative Writers and Debaters Club; writing/presenting campus news. I subsequently became the SRC Vice President for the school, and the PRO for Teacher Trainees Association of Ghana (Volta Sector). I graduated in 2013 with Second Class Upper. Currently I am pursuing a three-year bachelor degree in Education from one of Ghana’s premier private universities, Valley View University.
For the past three years, I have committed myself to youth development. I’ve been a speaker/facilitator at most youth events and also served as a guest on a number of radio stations in Ghana; educating and inspiring my generation. I’m an author of a book – Banish The Enemy Within: Self-Sabotage. My impact is phenomenal. I was named among Africa ViewPoint Journal’s 2014 “20 Under 35 Young African Change Makers,” rose to win the 2015 “Africa Youth Awards (Grass Root Transformation),” and in 2016 I had to serve on the 2016 Jury Board of Africa Youth Awards.
You run your own Foundation – Teen Age Build-Ghana. What inspired you to start it?
I formed Teen Age Build-Ghana (TAB-Gh) just after completion of college. I was inspired by what I witnessed when I was in basic school. I had some of my classmates commuting from a village – 5km away from my hometown – just to access good school.
The condition of the school at their end was deplorable, the village has no access to electricity and good drinking water, and because of these, teachers mostly reject posting there. Imagine school children walking 5km just to get to school – they get tired and doze in class when lessons are ongoing. I was the one doing homework for most of them because by the time they walk 5km back home, they are exhausted and they don’t even have electricity light to learn with. Their main occupation is fishing; some would have to go for fishing early morning before coming to school.
By the time we completed JHS, most of them dropped out. Those whom I completed with couldn’t pass to enter Senior High School [sad]. The situation was the same when I completed SHS and got to college. In my third year in college, I decided to do something to help solve the challenges they face. When I was drawing the plan, I realized that similar things are happening in other parts of Ghana; therefore, the need to broaden the idea. That was how TAB-Gh came about.
What are the specific empowerment programs rolled out by Teen Age Build-Ghana?
Our first activity started in the community that inspired the whole idea. We went there for sensitization programs, got some school dropouts back to school, and provide mentoring to them. We liaised with a journalist friend to file news on the school’s condition in order to attract some helps. TAB-Gh also partnered with the Ghana Education Service (Afadjato South District) to improve students’ performances in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in 2014.
The District, which used to record 0% in some schools within it, scored 73% in the 2014 BECE – an improvement of 25% from 48% in the 2013 BECE. Initiatives such as workshops for teachers and spelling and reading programs for the students were adopted to minimize the poor performances. We hold annual Inter-Districts Spelling Bee Competitions, and also an annual Teens Empowerment Summit.
Besides, we embark on school-to-school advocacy. Currently, we’ve adopted a community for a two-year project aim at promoting girls’ enrollment, retention, and progression in schools. Since its inception in 2013, we’ve impacted more than 8,000 teenagers across Ghana. I’m happy people are seeing the efforts and impacts we are making. We’ve been recognized in the maiden (2016) Ghana StartUp Awards, and we know the future is brighter.
You also run your own company – BusiWrite. What inspired you to start this business?
As a speaker, I go for programs and meet people who engage me in chats after the events. Some discuss with me brilliant ideas and would appreciate my help, advice and guidance. But I have noticed something: at least 2/3 of them find it difficult to communicate their thoughts and ideas clearly.
Communication is something – it can make the most inspiring idea sound “stupid” (please excuse my choice of word) if it’s poorly done. I’ll ask some of them to write the ideas on paper and send to me, but the kind of things I receive made me concluded that the bane of most graduates is their inability to communicate their ideas clearly and succinctly, – to be engaging, inspiring and able to elicit the right responses from the readers. I just imagined a number of such people who can’t find potential partners/sponsors for their wonderful ideas because they communicated them wrongly. I imagined those who missed job opportunities because there were flaws in their CVs and/or cover letters. That was where BusiWrite started from – to solve people’s/organization’s business writing challenges.
What specific solutions does BusiWrite deliver in the marketplace?
As said before, we fundamentally solve people’s/organization’s business writing challenges. Whether it is a CV, or cover letter, or proposal, or speeches, or business plan people want to write, we exist to help them write effectively. We are talking about the kind of writing that engages, inspires, and elicits the right action.
At BusiWrite, we believe honing a good business writing skills is what can keep you in the ever growing competitive corporate world and eventually make you stand out. Companies have suffered the effect of bad writing by their employees. Take Coleco for instance. The computer manufacturing company “lost $35 million in a single quarter in 1983 – and eventually went out of business – when customers purchased its new Adam line computers, found the instruction manuals unreadable, and rushed to return their computers.”
That was recorded in Michael Egan’s article, Total Quality Business Writing, published in The Journal for Quality and Participating (1995). Employees spend 20% of their working hours writing; they have to write and write well then. Most hiring managers won’t think twice to discard poorly written CVs and cover letters. BusiWrite exists in the market to solve all these.
What has been the most effective strategy you have used to grow your business and your Foundation?
So far, the most effective strategy for me is recommendations from clients, friends, and associates. Trust me, you can invest massively in advertisements, leverage the power of social media, but if people aren’t talking (good) about your product(s)/service(s), you won’t find people who would trust you enough to be your clients/customers. Most of my clients (as far as BusiWrite is concerned) and sponsors/donors (as far as TAB-Gh is concerned), were raked in by way of referrals from friends, associates and clients.
Let me use your platform to express my appreciation to them. You can’t take these people for granted, they mean everything to your business.
How have you effectively leveraged the power of social media to push your message?
I was able to achieve my brand as a Writer, Speaker, and Social Entrepreneur because of social media, especially Facebook. I believe the first thing we must develop before our products’ brand is our personal brand. If people trust you and believe in your ability, they will believe in what you offer. So I used social media, first of all, to establish my brand and I’m picking it from there.
What are some of the major challenges you have encountered so far and how did you overcome them?
My major challenges. Let me mention just this: poor self-esteem. I grew up with very low self-esteem/worth and it affected me a lot. I detailed that in my book. In fact, it was what informed me to write that book; how we can overcome our self-limitations. Lack of self-esteem is one of the reasons why people limit themselves and avoid responsibilities that can turn out to be golden opportunities.
I was able to combat that when I started reading motivational books and listening to motivational preaching. I go to seminars and I lived what I learned. The scripture made a big change in my life. I thank God the day I met Christ, it changed my story dramatically.
Where do you see your business and the Foundation 5 years from now?
Teen Age Build-Ghana in the next five years will have regional centers in all the 10 regions of Ghana, providing guidance and counselling to our teenagers, and it would have its feet firmly rooted in the promotion of girls’ enrollment, retention, and progression in school. BusiWrite will be one of the leading companies in corporate training as far as business writing is concerned.
Do you have any mentor(s)? What is the best advice you have ever received from your Mentor(s)?
I had, and the best advice was, “” No” doesn’t mean “No”.” When people say “NO” to your request, idea, or whatever, don’t simply give up, push again, and again, and again. I have seen that worked for me several times.
For those who are interested in starting a Foundation and venturing into your line of Business, what candid advice would you give them?
They must not rush into it. It is very tempting to start a project once an idea drops into your mind. However, every idea needs to go through what I call, “Clarity Stage”. Time must be spent to define the idea – by this I mean, what does the idea seeks to solve? What are the strategies that will best solve the problem? Who and what does your idea needs to succeed? Who has already travelled the path you’re about travelling? What worked or did not work for them? You need to talk to some of these people.
But this is what you need to know about the “Clarity Stage”: it can be discouraging. Sometimes the answers you will get to some of the questions I stated, and even more, are likely to paralyze your enthusiasm about the idea.
The answers can make your own idea seems irrelevant and unattainable to you. Some of the people you would contact will ask series of questions – those you have never thought of – and again you will feel they are discouraging you, but no. The stage is a difficult one, but you must go through it if you want to succeed.
For you, Excellence in Business is all about ….
Excellence in Business to me is all about creativity. Even if you are doing same things that others are doing, what is different about yours? Creativity makes your idea more preferable to others. It is creativity that brings and retains your clients/customers. And not until your first client/customer, at the start of your business, continues to prefer your product(s)/service(s) to others, ten years after your existence, you haven’t attained Excellence in Business.
Sabaru brand is an example. It has the most loyal customers in the industry, just because the creativity over the years continues to differentiate the brand from others.
Where can we find out more about you and your products (website, social media, new product being released)?
You can find BusiWrite on Facebook as BusiWrite, on Twitter; @BusiWrite. Teen Age Build-Ghana is on Facebook as Teen Age Build Ghana. We’ve closed its website down for now, but soon we’ll have for both. But people can also contact me via phone/Whatsapp +233 247698295 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a lighter note, what musical video would you like us to play for the readers of this interview?
Hahaha. On a lighter note right? Okay, play “Ma Du Agbadza Na Nye Mawu”. It is in Ewe, my local language. It means, “I’ll Dance Agbadza For My God” – Agbadza is a dance type by the Ewe people). But if on a serious note, play my fiancée’s favorite: “My Life, My Love, My All” by Kirk Franklin.
Many thanks for sharing with us, Divine.