EAA was founded based on the core belief that all manufacturing can and should be done ethically. In 2015, while working together in West Africa, we realized if ever there was a place to prove this it was here.
Against the backdrop of rising prices in Asia and industry pressure to find its next manufacturing hub, we saw the fundamental advantages West Africa could offer: quick shipping times to the US/EU, duty advantages, low cost of living, and labor availability.
The business opportunity was clearly there, but what inspired us to start EAA was the opportunity to do things differently: To get it right from the start, building a model of manufacturing that prioritizes both profit and people.
For us, this starts with partnership. We met factory owners in Ghana and Benin who showed deep commitment to their workers and communities, but who struggled to expand due to lack of volume orders. We built our business model around enabling them to achieve their visions of worthwhile job creation at scale.
We know that cost competitive and ethical production are not mutually exclusive. We work with our partner factories every day to continuously improve: to increase efficiency, go beyond compliance, and meaningfully impact workers’ lives.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
I started my career in fashion with the customer - working on the shop floor at the retail coal face. This helped me to understand what customers want. I then worked in sourcing at the other end of the supply chain. Living in Bangladesh and working daily with the factories helped me understand what the factories and workers want. This prepared me for developing a model that could satisfy both ends of the supply chain.
In addition to improving the quality of existing jobs, we measure ourselves on our ability to create new ones. We believe the creation of stable employment, particularly for women, is an incredibly powerful driver of sustainable change.
By 2027, we aim to create 5,000 high quality manufacturing jobs in West Africa.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for female founders? How can we overcome it?
Never assume as a female that you will be treated differently or get less than a man. Work with the premise that everything is also available to you and be the best leader and person you can be so you prove your worth as an individual.
What are your short/long term goals?
We just made these commitments as part of the UN Foundation's Women Deliver initiative:
Create 2500 sustainable jobs in Ethical Apparel Africa partner factories enabling workers (70% women) to support their families and uplift their communities
Provide support to kick start workforce empowerment, general & reproductive health programs that are designed based on local needs and reach 1500 women in garment factories. Demonstrate that these programs are then sustained as part of factories’ ongoing operating model
Implement incentives programs in all factories to increase take home pay by an average of at least 20% from 2019 baseline
Through developing an ecosystem for people and skills development in the emerging Ghanaian apparel industry -- including a $2.4M Center of Excellence for technical training EAA is establishing with GIZ and other private sector partners -- help catalyze the growth of the Ghana apparel industry to employ over 10,000 individuals by 2023
What do you think about company culture? What are some of your tips on being a good leader?
Active listening is one of the most important things you can do. Everyone's opinions and perceptions can be learnt from and the more people feel they are involved the more you will learn from them. We have a team made up of 9 different nationalities working across 4 different cultures. This has meant it was important for us to determine what our Ethical Apparel Africa culture was, what our values were and then to conduct ourselves consistently with them whilst adapting to the context we are operating in.