PRIDE: Bernard Adjei after one of his many awards
MANCHESTER-BASED Bernard Adjei is about to launch Densu Online, which he is proud to describe as:
"...the first marketplace for small to medium black businesses within the UK."
Creating the website and positioning himself to potentially strengthen the collective black economy is just one of Adjei's many achievements. A Lloyds Banking Group employee who was named their Young Banker of the Year in 2016, the Ghana-raised tech advocate also made it onto the annual Power List, which identifies top African and Caribbean influencers.
The Voice spoke with Adjei about Densu Online as well as the personal elements that prepared him for success.
Q: Do you think that being raised in Ghana, where the majority of leaders and innovators are black males, has given you more confidence and a springboard for success than you would have had in your birthplace, France?
A: My upbringing taught me a lot about resilience, hard work and creativity. I saw how people with little created value and succeeded and this I believe, has guided me on my journey.
Also, being inspired by black trailblazers throughout history has impacted greatly my self-belief and confidence in what is possible. People like Marcus Garvey, Thomas Sankara and my personal favourite Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana really influenced my view of the world. The achievements of these great leaders have inspired me over the years to break down barriers and go after my dreams and aspirations. I’m always reminded of my history and shaped by the efforts and passions of my those who share my black heritage.
Q: What is Densu Online and who is it aimed at?
A: Densu Online is the first marketplace for small to medium black business within the UK.
Living here (the UK) and seeing the lack of an online space where black people can showcase and share their skills and talents and also inspire a new generation, drove me to create Densu.
My dream is for Densu to provide a platform for our people to showcase their skills and also to provide the consumer with a one-stop shop for products relevant to black culture and black people - for instance, afro hair products, make-up in a range of skin tones, afro-centric clothing and all things uniquely black.
Q: Who are your partners and some of the businesses you are working with?
A: We are working with some very exciting and incredible black businesses within the UK. We presently have more than 100 businesses registered with our platform. Shear and Shine, Almocado, All Shades Covered, Akid Clothing, iloveafro, Fashion by Marita and KC Cosmetics are just some of the businesses that have signed-up.
We are also in partnership with some great businesses - the UK Black Owned Business directory, Str8Talk Manchester (a talk show in Manchester) as well De Montfort University's African Caribbean Society.
IMPARTATION: Bernard Adjei sharing nuggets of advice at a public speaking engagement
Q: How do you think Densu will change the way people in the UK spend their disposable income?
A: I want Densu to provide consumers with an element of choice and also enhance competition within the market.
I hope this also helps the black community to trade with each other and benefit from the knowledge of a shared heritage through online trading. Hopefully through Densu, the black community will increase circulation of the pound in the UK.
We are also looking at supporting young black entrepreneurs and providing them with the tools and the platform to succeed.
Q: You've won four awards and accolades - did it come as a surprise when you found out your work had been recognised to that extent?
A: It’s been a long road to where I’m now. From Ghana to a steward at Manchester United to becoming the UK’s young banker of the year and an entrepreneur– yes, it’s definitely come as a surprise. Even to break that glass ceiling that looms over my head as a black immigrant to achieve this is testament to what persistence and hard work can do.
Hopefully, telling my story now will help inspire some other kid struggling today. It can be done, young people. Just go after your dreams cleanly and put in the work. As Denzel Washington said in an interview he did a couple of days ago: “You fall down seven times, rise up eight”.
Q: What have been some of the challenges you've experienced over the course of your career and how did you overcome them?
A: As my grandmother always used to say, “no good success story comes without a struggle”.
It was hard breaking into the banking industry, settling in and being recognised as someone with skill and talent that can deliver in various roles. Just like everything in my life, I have broken down these barriers by being consistent, hardworking and true to my beliefs.
The hardest challenge I reckon is one’s own doubts and little voices that tell you 'you’re not good enough' either because of your background or the colour of your skin. But with focus, inspiration, hard work and mentoring, it can be done, and I’m testament to this.
Set a reminder - Densu Online is set to go live on Monday 27 February.
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