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Black Is Beautiful', A Ghanaian Entrepreneur's Million-Dollar Business Plan

posted 18 Mar 2013, 10:17 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Mar 2013, 10:18 ]

Grace Amey Obeng has built a business empire by fighting skin-bleaching and teaching young people how to appreciate and care for black African beauty.

 ACCRAGHANA (RECENT) (REUTERS) - With 100 US dollars and a passion for African beauty, Grace Amey-Obengstarted a business empire 25 years ago, which today is worth millions.

Starting out selling products from door to door and giving advice on skincare,Grace now exports to four countries in west Africa, to Switzerland and the UK and owns a chain of cosmetics and perfume stores, a beauty college and a firm that sells salon equipment among others, as part of her FC Group of Companies.

"The business environment here is like a virgin land. The opportunities are immerse, you know you just have to find your niche, because in a murky situation, you can identify the need of several and then capitalise on that to make yourself into a fantastic entrepreneur," she said.

According to a recent KPMG report, Ghana's macroeconomic performance owes to a relative peaceful environment, private sector competitiveness and human resource, along with high prices for gold and cocoa that sustained GDP growth in 2008 and 2009, .

Even in a favourable environment, Grace says her focus on addressing a deeply rooted image-problem experienced by many African women, created a unique niche for doing business.

Her products and services promote the beauty of black skin and shun the use of dangerous skin bleaching treatments.

Skin lightening is a common practice among dark skinned people in many parts of the world. But the products used for this often contain hydroquinone and mercury, both powerful toxins.

Although their use is banned in many countries, some western nations still allow the manufacture of compounds containing these chemicals for export only.

Experts blame irresponsible marketing of bleaching products, which mislead consumers into believing that lighter skinned women are more beautiful and more successful, while giving little information on the possible side-effects.

After studying beauty therapy in LondonGrace returned to Ghana and opened her first beauty clinic and college in the late 90's with an aim of teaching women how to care for their skin without having to do irreparable damage.

Realising that the right imported products were too expensive for her customers, she decided to start a homegrown line that costs between 3 and 15 US dollars, known as "Forever Clair".

She has also trained 5000 youth since she began and has a current class of about 300 students training in hair and beauty therapy at her FC college.

"I see them quite careful with the skin care because when I come here they don't give me products, they don't want to give me products that want to act on my skin to affect it, to bleach it. I think that they advice when you have a good skin you try and maintain it as an African," said Charlotte Morgan-Asiedu, one of Grace's clients.

With an annual turnover of 8 million US dollars, Grace is a local success story and has been an inspiration to many young people who have worked for her or gone through training at her college. She says the training part of FC companies is the most fulfilling part of her job.

"Because of what I do, I see patients and clients everyday through my doors, and when I see satisfaction on their faces, I am fulfilled, so it's a daily thing. But with the students I see when they come in, so lost and by the end they finish their programs and on the day of graduation I see them and I am so happy that I've managed to empower a few women and I share in their joy," Grace said.

"She is so modest and she is a mother, a very calm person. Her life is having a very positive influence on me, I just want to be somebody like her," said Salome Scott Dadoo, a student at the FC college.