Interview with Catherine ( Lady May ) Hagan – Founder and CEO – The R’ajwa Company

This month, a series of motivational interviews featuring African female entrepreneurs will be presented in this space. These phenomenal females who are fearlessly pursuing their dreams while contributing their quota to the improvement of the human condition will offer us a glimpse of their personae.

Spearheading this series is Lady May. While I realize that neither a blog post, nor a book nor a movie can capture the total essence of an individual, I do believe that it can give one an idea of a who a person is. If this glimpse can inspire a fellow female in the pursuit of her dreams, then I say “aye, aye Captain, my oar is ready. Let’s row this boat as it embarks on its’ journey toward fulfillment”.

Sher: How did you come by the name of your business?

Lady May: I named my company ‘ The R’ajwa Company’ which is a play on one of my names Ewuradwoa which means Lady born on Monday in Akan ( local dialect in Ghana). I wanted to name the company after myself because our business and all the projects we work on are very true to myself. I don’t work on anything that I don’t want to and you can see a piece of me in every project we take on.

All The R’ajwa Company subdivisions have ‘R’ajwa’ in them:

  • R’ajwa Experience – Our member only exclusive club that curates experiences for members in North America, Ghana and Japan.
  • R’ajwa Productions – Produces video content on different R’ajwa Compay projects
  • R’ajwa Gems will be launching in 2018

Sher: Your logo includes three expressive faces. Can you highlight your reason(s) for including these faces ?

Lady May: How observant of you. To go a bit further into the branding of our company, the 3 heads(a Ghanaian head, a Japanese head and an American head) show that The R’ajwa Company operates in these 3 (Ghana, Japan and America) countries.

Rajwa logo

Sher: What is the nature of your business?

Lady May: I like to describe The R’ajwa Company as a ‘ Connector’ Agency whose main objective is to bring the world closer together especially in this social media era where actual relationships seem fickle and are replaced by ‘ likes’, ‘follows’ , ‘pokes’ etc.

We do this through collaborations, partnerships, curated experiences and events across various geographical regions ( North America, Asia and Africa) and industries such as entertainment, fashion, tech and video games. Our goal is simply to make the world smaller.

Some of the partnerships/collaborations we have facilitated are:

  1. Collaboration with Rocnation and Namco Bandai’s PAC-MAN
    (USA x Japan – Video game X Fashion/Entertainment)

For the Japanese video game Pac-man’s 30th anniversary, The R’ajwa Company facilitated the collaboration between Namco Bandai (makers of Pac-man) and Jay-Z’s music and clothing brands Rocnation and Rocawear respectively. This collaboration included a mobile pop-up shop in the form of a truck decked out in Pac-man and Roc designs that followed Jay-Z and Rocnation artists on tour around the United States and a Pac-man Rocawear limited edition tees.

 

2. Michelle Williams, Mya and Eva Marcille for Koshie O.
(Africa X USA – Entertainment X Fashion)

Koshie O. is a Ghanaian clothing brand based in Maryland, USA. For its premier collection, Koshie O. wanted its brand to stand out from similar brands.

The R’ajwa Company played on the Koshie O. logo, which depicts an African woman carrying a baby on her back with a load of food on her head (symbolizing the strength of a woman), to create the Koshie O. woman campaign.

The Koshie O. Woman was a campaign in which USA musicians Michelle Williams and Mya and model/actress Eva Marcille (women known to be bold and strong) created limited edition pieces for Ghanaian clothing brand Koshie O’s first collection.

 

3. Fashion 4 Development – African Fashion in Seoul, Korea (Asia X Africa)
Fashion 4 Development is a non-profit organization that uses Fashion to raise awareness for the United Nations Development Goals. In 2014, Fashion 4 Development organized a luxury fundraising Gala in Seoul Korea and The R’ajwa Company was tasked with curating African Fashion brands to be showcased as part of the event’s fashion show.

Sher: Tell me how you came up with your business idea?

Lady May: The idea of The R’ajwa Company came when I was in University in Japan. I realized most of my Japanese friends were obsessed with American pop culture and they loved every bit of the Ghanaian culture I introduced them to ( especially rice and peanut butter soup). I started organizing events in university incorporating US and Ghana culture in them and we used to get tons of outsiders (not students) attending. That is when I knew I had a niche that I could tap into.

I always thought I was going to be a lawyer though; My dad is a diplomat and my mom is a lawyer. So, the plan was to be an international lawyer or a lawyer specializing in International Relations. However, when I realized how much I loved connecting people and brands, I knew it was what I was meant to do . And The R’ajwa Company was born.

IMG_2745

Sher : I realize you are currently working on  a project in Ghana. Do you think the current Ghanaian economy has impacted your business positively or adversely?

Lady May: This year was the first year the R’ajwa Company marketed to the Ghanaian consumer with our R’ajwa Experience. In the past, we have represented Ghanaian brands internationally so didn’t really have the need to do business in Ghana. This makes it difficult for me to speak on how the economy impacted business now versus then. However, I can say that just from me visiting Ghana in the past and comparing it to now , people seem more willing to spend money on events/items that they feel will enrich their lives .

I personally don’t think The R’ajwa Experience would have been as successful as it was if it was even just 2 years ago.

IMG_2747

Sher: Can you share some insights as a female entrepreneur operating in Ghana?

Lady May: The most important thing to do while operating in Ghana is building a team. You need a solid group of trustworthy people around you who know the way things operate in Ghana.

I believe operating in Ghana as an entrepreneur comes with its challenges whether you are a man or a woman. A few of the issues I had were punctuality; most meetings started about an hour late which can mess up your whole day when you have scheduled back to back meetings. Since I work with clients in the states and Japan on different time zones, scheduling is very important to me so the punctuality issue is a serious one for me.

Another obstacle I faced was vendors and other people I had to work with over-promising services they couldn’t deliver in the time frame they said they would.

The one personal pet peeve I had ( I would like to stress it as a personal one since many other people didn’t take offense to it) is when men address me or other women as ‘dear’. ‘ sweetie’, ‘ hun’ , ‘babe’ or honey in business settings. I found this very unprofessional

Sher: For female entrepreneurs in western countries with plans of re-locating to Ghana in pursuit of business activities, what advice do you have them ?

Lady May: I haven’t completely re-located to Ghana and I don’t think I will ever be able to make that “big move” since my businesses are in the United States and in Japan so I may not be the most well equipped person to answer this question. However, I will say that anyone planning to relocate to Ghana needs to be realistic with their expectations. Ghana is a developing country so having the same expectations you have for Western countries may lead to frustrations.

I think you should definitely go and test it out for about 3 to 6 months to get familiarized with how everything works before making the big move.

Sher: Do you think there are advantages or disadvantages to being a female entrepreneur in Ghana?

Lady May: I definitely think the same advantages that female entrepreneurs have globally applies to Ghana as well , that is, ability to multi-task, being creative, being flexible when things don’t go as planned, being empathetic etc.

However, I do think that the laws in the Western world protect women a bit better than in Ghana with regards to discrimination and also classifications of sexual harassment to include verbal sexual advances not just physical.

Sher: Share some words of advice for young women who have dreams of becoming entrepreneurs

Lady May: Being an entrepreneur is not easy at all, but it is very fulfilling because you are literally carving out your own destiny. The key is to keep your eye on the prize especially when you feel the need to give up or quit (which you will feel several times). Also, don’t be fooled by people’s end products or what they show on social media or in the press etc. It is a struggle for EVERYONE.

Interview presented by Sherita N Brace

Sherita Brace is an entrepreneur, an international development professional and a blogger . She writes regularly on topics spanning fashion, African culture, natural health and international development.

This post first appeared on HuffPost – November 6th, 2017

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