Building a strong and vibrant brand is by no means a small feat, especially when doing so in Africa, where startups and entrepreneurs have a very low margin for survival. Samara Group has passed the threshold and is rated one of the fastest-growing business conglomerates in Ghana. Prof. Sampson Apraku, the Chief Executive Officer, Samara Holdings, tells us more about his business model and strategy. Excerpts:
The name Effah Apraku symbolizes hard work, patience, and wealth. Considering what you have built in your country for over 40 years of being in business, what can small businesses learn from how you did this without an elite education per se?
First of all, one has to have the belief that you can do it and can be successful. It doesn’t matter whether you have studied in an elite school or not, you should have the right kind of knowledge needed to pursue your goals, be it formal or informal. All that you need is determination, dedication and confidence in yourself. There have been people who are school dropouts but that didn’t stop them from becoming successful in their endeavours.
You’ve really tested the waters of entrepreneurship. Growing up, what were the core beliefs that made you strive so hard to be where you are now?
Being the best and being acknowledged as first among equals, have been my aspiration since childhood. Success is often the result of perseverance. I relentlessly seek perfection even in the face of challenges because it’s my belief that when you stop trying and start compromising on principles and values, you will be out of the system in due course. I focused on being the best. Secondly, I don’t know anyone who has accomplished something amazing on his or her own. Great leaders create an enabling environment for their subordinates and harness their talents to achieve desired goals. When you’re “in it” only for yourself, initial success is always limited and often short-lived. When you’re in it for others, they succeed – and so do you.
From being a commercial farmer, you built a reputable group that is today renowned all over the country — and beyond. What brought about the change?
I was resilient in the pursuit of success. As a village boy in those days, the only job available to one was farming. Honestly, farming was not something I really wanted to do for a long time but I needed to raise capital to pursue my vision. I was able to turn my farm from subsistence to a commercial one enabling me to raise enough money to build my current business.
In 2014, your brand was awarded the Fastest Growing Brand, by Premier Brands. Also, 2015 continued with the addition of the prestigious Head of State Award for being the Fastest Growing Company. With the retinue of awards, there seems to be much recognition for the work you are doing?
By dint of hard work, my team and I have been able to build a solid brand which has become a household name. Currently, our product (Sasso Insecticide Spray and Coil) commands almost 60% of the market share from nowhere. Our desire to offer to consumers quality products devoid of side effects has made our brand very attractive and has translated into high patronage. In as much as we are a profit-making organisation, we believe in giving back to societies. We have been pursuing vigorous corporate social responsibilities. Health, Education, Culture and Human Security have been our focus channelling thousands of dollars in this regard. I believe all these achievements have caught the eyes of both State and Private Award event organizers to acknowledge us. We are most grateful.
As a businessman who is considered by many to have exceeded expectations, what were your high points and low points in business, and what lessons did you learn from them?
Making the SASSO brand a household name has been my all-time high point. Samara Company Limited is currently revered in the country and that brings a lot of joy to myself and the team. My low point was when my contract with one of the giant pharmaceutical companies in the country as a national distributor was unreasonably abrogated and needed to resort to law courts for compensation. It had a great toll on me since I needed to start all over again. This brought a lot of hardship but I believed that in any misfortune there is an opportunity. It strengthens me to advance to this stage.
How have you been able to manage the demands of business with marriage and family?
Samara Company Ltd is a family business. The shareholders constitute me, my wife and children. I have some of my children working in the company. I have instilled discipline in all my children and have entreated them to take the business like theirs. During working time, our relationship is purely professional and official. However, we regularly have family meetings to share ideas, solve issues and fraternize with them since most of them are happily married.
The African Leadership Magazine, a leading brand in business and leadership development on the continent has recognized you to be inducted at the INAUGURAL AFRICAN LEADERSHIP CEO HALL OF FAME. How do you feel receiving this award?
I was born into a very poor home with no hope of getting this far. I needed to sell before I can eat and even pay my fees at a very tender age. I had to walk for miles to school and eventually dropping out of school because I could no longer afford to pay my fees. With limited education, I have able to compete with privileged ones to get this point, I am really grateful, humbled and honoured. I will give praise to the Almighty God for not deserting me, been with me and guided me to achieve this great feat. I would also thank my wife and children for the immense support through the turbulent times. A big thank you to my team and staff for being dedicated to the company’s causes. Finally, I would like to thank our customers and consumers for their belief in our brand. Thank you.