Friday Ojo is a man of vision, but he struggled to make his vision a reality. Building Markets, with the help of donors like you, assisted Ojo to get the skills he needed to succeed.
Ojo started his business Kum-Jo International Enterprises in 2009 with a single worker. Initially, he sold cassava products and charcoal. In 2012 he enrolled in the USAID Sustainable Marketplace Initiative Liberia’s (SMI-L) general procurement training. During the training Ojo learned how to write a business proposal, how to bid for a contract and improve his customer service. After his training Ojo said “I now know how to talk to customers and potential partners and how to build relationships.” Ojo, like many other business owners using Building Markets services, also receives emails about relevant tenders that he can bid on.
With his newly learned business skills, he grew unsatisfied with his charcoal business and used all of his profits to launch a secondary business. Now, Ojo collects and sells automobile scraps (car bumpers, gas tanks and oil drums) and crushes the scrap materials by hand using a hammer - one ton of scrap will take two weeks to crush.
Prior to undergoing the Building Markets training, Ojo bidded on several tenders yet failed to win them. Eventually Ojo’s hard work paid off when he won a $12,000 contract for auto scraps with Afcons Infrastructure Limited. The contract allowed him to hire six more workers and expand his business to include aluminum and plastic scraps. A few months later, Kum-Jo won two more contracts, which Ojo attributes to Building Markets’ training. One was for the supply of charcoal to AFCORES and the other for used tires, 200 empty drums, and 20 drums of used oil to GRILL – IMPREX.
As of the end of April 2013 through Building Markets’ training, locally-owned businesses have won more than $53,142.25 worth of contracts, creating more than 20 new full-time jobs and 7 part-time jobs. All of the project’s services combined have helped businesses win more than $5.7 million in contracts and create 81 full-time jobs and 19 part-time jobs.
In the Air Field neighborhood where Ojo lives in Monrovia, he explains that people come to him for food. Ojo said “I wanted to give them more than food. I wanted to give them a job.” He now has nine workers five females and four males, all of who now care for their families. They collect empty soda cans and broken plastic chairs, tubs and containers, all of which are ubiquitous in Monrovia. They hammer them down into inch-long pieces. With a desire to further expand his business Ojo has opened a branch in Nimba County and hopes to send two of his workers to the next Building Markets general procurement training session.
“The sky is my limit, and there’s no turning back.” Ojo said. He wants to continue to expand his business both geographically and across sectors with poultry as his next focus. To do so he would need a loan or a significant amount of profits set aside. In the meantime, Ojo is happy with his life and business. “Kum-Jo International Enterprises improves my life and improves the lives of so many others,” Ojo said.
Sea Rocks Construction faces a lot of challenges. Thanks to Building Markets’ training, made possible through the United States Agency for International Development and your generous contributions, winning contracts is no longer one of them.
After attending SMI-L’s general procurement training, Sea Rocks won a $28,000 contract from the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment. Momo Dasay, co-owner of Sea Rocks, attributed their success to the SMI-L’s training.
“We had a different way of filling in bids. Building Markets made it simple; they gave us all the rules of the bid,” said Dasay. “The training was very important for us in winning this contract.”
Building Markets’ training encompasses proposal writing, environmental regulations and financial management, among other subjects. To date, thanks to Building Markets’ training, locally owned businesses have won almost $70,000 worth of contracts, creating 8 new full-time jobs and an additional 6 part-time jobs. All of the project’s services combined have helped businesses win $4,259,357 worth of contracts.
Sea Rocks is a construction and renovation company located in Cotton Tree, a small town located about 30 minutes drive east of Monrovia. The contract is for road culverts, which is a drainage system that allows water to flow underneath roads. Culverts are important to Liberia’s infrastructure. Without them the heavy rains of Liberia’s wet season make the roads impassible, disrupting domestic trade.
Sea Rocks hires short-term labor to work as needed. Two skilled workers were hired to work on this contract. Dasay has a dream for developing sustainable employment for the Liberians of Cotton Tree. He spoke of establishing a scholarship program for members of his community who cannot afford advanced schooling. “If our business grows, we want to…help people who are willing to learn but don’t have the cash,” Dasay said. “Then maybe they can work for us.”
“This contract means a lot. We put our lives into this business,” Dasay said. “This contract helps educate our children, makes our wives happy, changes our status in life. We want to maintain this business. We depend on this for our livelihoods.”
Thank you again for your generous support. Building Markets' work in Liberia is also made possible by USAID: through the American people.
Fofana is a happy man with a big smile. Six years ago, he founded his carpentry business, Soulemane Silla Woodshop, on Broad Street in Gbarnga, Liberia’s second largest city. He successfully produced household furniture but had trouble growing his business. He had no idea of how to bid for large, international contracts that could improve his production skills. He also did not know how to find information on such opportunities. One day, the Building Markets team visited his wood shop and registered his business on our business portal.
Months later in July, PCI Liberia came to Building Markets with a matchmaking request for 750 chairs, which the organization wanted to purchase from a local supplier. The Building Markets team found a match in Fofana’s woodshop. After Fofana delivered the 750 chairs, PCI Liberia placed a second order for 1,500 more. These contracts have changed Fofana’s business.
“I had thirty persons working in this wood shop but with the current contract I have just employed fifteen more,” Fofana said. Increased business and job creation, however small, is a big deal in a country with over 80 percent unemployment. “[Before] I was only producing beds, dressers and tables for the community. People hardly buy these things because production is costly and the finished product is expensive,” Fofana says. “But as you can see I am now producing 1,500 arm chairs. This is a life changing situation.” To see a video of Fofana at his woodship, click here.
In addition to Fofana, Building Markets’ Sustainable Marketplace Initiative in Liberia has helped several businesses win 23 contracts, worth a total of over $1 million ($1,408,343.04 to be exact). Building Markets has listed 1,824 Liberian-owned businesses on the business portal, including 646 women-owned businesses. We’ve sent over 25,000 text messages to businesses, like Fofana’s, to alert them of new opportunities they can bid on. We’ve trained 88 businesses, two of which attributed winning a contract to the training session they attended.
We want to thank each of our contributors for their generous support in helping us connect business owners in Liberia to new opportunities. There is still much more to be done, and we would like to encourage you to consider donating again, donating for the first time, or spreading the word to your friends and family!
*All numbers are through the end of October 2012.