The rise in obesity has led to a growth in health and fitness centres. These fitness centres have dominated the western world but is yet to fully penetrate the African market. Mr Lawrence Clifford Poku Amankwah, a fitness enthusiast, saw the need to extend his love of fitness to Ghana. Following the mantra that ‘health is our greatest wealth’ Lawrence set up Branch Health and Fitness Centre to cater for the needs of Ghanaians. Branch, (an acronym of his children’s names: Bradley, Andre and Chanelle), has since grown to become a successful business and a leader in the health and wellbeing field. Its popularity is set to increase with the new gym opening from February 2013 in East Legon, Ghana
To add to his accomplishments, Lawrence is set to soon open a dry cleaning and laundry service called ‘Bubbles’ on the Spintex Road in Ghana. Lawrence Amankwah’s drive and determination won favour with the Ghanaian public and led to his nomination for a Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) award. Nominated for an ‘Efie Ne Fie’ award, Lawrence talks us through the fundamentals of his business and how that led to his nomination for a GUBA award.
What made you decide to start a business in Ghana? I have always had a personal interest in health and fitness. The fitness industry in the UK is very well dominated, but from visiting Ghana I found that there were cities that lacked fitness facilities and that motivated me to set up my own. Ghana is also becoming a middle class country and the middle classes like to look after themselves hence the fitness centre. The UK served me well but I knew that my services will be better served in Ghana. Breaking through the glass ceiling is attainable to some but I feel that you have more of a chance to do so in Ghana than in the UK.
Briefly talk us through the concept behind your business Gyms and fitness centres around the world have their niche, Ghana did not have many gyms and the ones that did lacked many features. My aim was to develop a fitness centre that had a number of facilities to cater to everyone. My gym is not only a workout centre but it also has saunas, fitness classes, grooming shops and many more. I wanted to create a fitness and wellbeing haven to cater for all because I felt that was needed in Ghana.
From your perspective, how is business in Ghana different from that in the UK? The main difference I have observed is that of work ethic. The work ethic of the staff in Ghana is still a work in progress and as a result you have to employ twice as much people as you would in the UK. Once the work ethic is in place however, customers are appreciative of the services.
What difficulties have you encountered in business so far? In the UK, gym equipment is set up on a rental basis but in Ghana I had to buy my own equipment. Business in Ghana was expensive because of the cost of equipment and the duty charge. The interest rates for bank loans are also quite high so that brings about difficulties when it comes to funding. Ghanaians are very well educated however, some tend to lack employability skills and the work ethic of some staff is akin to someone who has done a normal job in the UK. Business is quite difficult as a result however; there is improvement and the educational system need to lean towards educating people on customer services as well.
What do you think about the Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) Awards? GUBA is an excellent platform for entrepreneurs. I had heard about it in the past but this is the first time I have been involved and attended the event. I received a lot of enquiries and interest when my profile was uploaded to the GUBA website and I received a lot of positive exposure. This assures me that GUBA creates a platform for businesses to be discovered.
You were nominated for a GUBA ‘Efie Ne Fie’ Award. How did you feel about your nomination? I did not understand what the category meant at first but, when it was explained to me it described me exactly because, I am someone who has moved to Ghana to try and make a better life for myself. It was brilliant to have been nominated for a GUBA award and especially great to have been chosen for the ‘Efie Ne Fie’ category. What advice will you give to future entrepreneurs? I don’t believe people just become entrepreneurs; I believe it starts from their youth. I will advise that if you have that entrepreneurial skill in you, keep trying to develop it till you reach a stage whereby you can implement it. Presently, Ghana is ripe for business and there are a lot of opportunities once you find a niche.
We at GUBA understand the importance of health and fitness and are extremely proud of Lawrence Amankwah’s contribution to date. We wish him all the best in his endeavours and we are sure that his business will reach higher heights.
By Claudia Andrews