BUSINESS INSIGHT: Mavis Amankwah
WE CAUGHT up last week with Mavis Amankwah during her busy schedule as founder and CEO of Rich Visions, a communications and public relations consultancy specialising in reaching diverse and hard-to-reach communities as well as mainstream audiences.
Mavis established the company in 2002. Here she gives readers an insight into her business success and how she juggles the demands of running a company with family life.
Tell us about your business and what makes it special?
Rich Visions is a PR and communication agency which helps corporate organisations tap into the diverse markets in the UK. For example if you want to tap into the hard to reach African and Caribbean market, you have to understand the cultural nuances, our marketing behaviours, what media we read, listen and watch. Rich Visions bridges the gap between the community and the corporate organisations. We also have a division which helps small businesses to grow and sustain their business through effective marketing and PR. And we also run Diva Visions which is a members club for women in business to network and socialise.
What inspired and made you decide this was the field you wanted to be in?
I studied IT and after graduating spent around eight years in the ICT business, but around 2002 I wasn’t satisfied with just fixing computers and started looking for something else to do. I saw that there was a gap in the market where mainstream businesses wanted to tap into the ethnic minority community but didn’t know how to achieve that so I launched Rich Visions to be that conduit and we have been going ever since.
What was it like starting up a business and what hurdles did you have to overcome?
Starting up was a real challenge because you can have any amount of qualifications, but it is all about getting the right advice and experience at the beginning. It is best to get professional help and I did that. The major hurdle was finance to start the business. Luckily for me I had tremendous family support to take me across. My business was self-funded because I knew it would be difficult to get the banks to finance it in the first instance. So far it has been great, but 10 years on we have a new hurdle to face and that is how to sustain and grow the business in a tough economic climate.
What excites you about the business and the job that you are doing?
What excites me is when I see organisations come to us with a challenge on how to reach our community with their products and services and we are able to fulfill that request. When we see our campaigns running in The Voice and other ethnic media along with our outreach programmes or speaking one to one on health issues for instance, getting the message out there, that’s when we know our job has been successful and we have helped these organisations to reach their objectives.
It must be quite hectic to manage a PR and communications agency. How do you cope?
It is very hectic but thankfully I have a very good team of 12 employees – 11 ladies and one gentleman – who are dedicated to the jobs they do. In addition I am an organised person and able to multi-task as I have to juggle the business, family life, a husband and kids, as well as friends and still find time for myself. My mom raised me to be very independent and this has help me run such a busy agency which it is very rewarding.
What is the biggest campaign you have worked on?
We have worked on many campaigns, but two stand out for me. The first is Comic Relief in 2011 when we got the job to reach out to our community about the tremendous work that Comic Relief was doing in Africa. But the biggest to date is the recently concluded digital TV switch over campaign which gave us the opportunity to not only work with our community, African and Caribbean, but also the Arabic, Polish and Russian communities. We worked with over 90 media houses because it was such a diverse campaign.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
Proud moments are when you are praised for your work or given awards, but the proudest achievement for me is when I can make an impact on somebody’s life. If someone saw me as a role model when they want to start up their business that makes me feel good.
When you are not working where is the best place to find you?
At the spa. I also love bringing people together, family and friends for dinners and socialising but more importantly I spend a lot of my down time in the spa where I can relax and unwind.
How do you spend your down time?
At home in the kitchen. I love cooking Ghanaian cuisine for my family and friends. I also read a lot.
You are quite an attractive person. What are your health and beauty tips for ladies?
Exercise a lot. Take time out and go to the gym or go for walks. I will be 38 this year so I try to take care of myself because running your own business sometimes doesn’t give you that much opportunity to pamper yourself.
Who does your hair and nails?
I have a personal hairdresser, Edith from Edenites Hair Studio, who is also my best friend. For nails I go to any number of places just because my time is very limited so I just go to who is available.
What is your must have accessory?
Lip gloss. I must have lip gloss in my bag for that moment of business and you have to look professional.
iphone or BlackBerry?
I am a BlackBerry queen because it is good for sending quick messages to my family. Definitely BlackBerry.
I have got loads, but my favourite at the moment is Summer Blossom by Ralph Lauren.
When dining out, what is your preferred choice of cuisine?
I am a bit old school. Like everyone else my preference is Chinese or Thai.
What music do you listen to?
I love R n B and rare groove, but I am a great fan of Jamaican music because it’s what I grew up on. I love reggae and ragga music and had the opportunity to see a lot of those artistes perform live. I also listen to contemporary music like jazz to relax, but I also love Afrobeats although I am not able to do the Azonto dance - my daughter is currently teaching me some of the moves.
What’s next for you?
There’re lots of things in the pipeline. I wrote a book last year and am currently working on my second one about business nightmares, how you can sustain your business in these hard economic times. I am also looking to do more work in Africa because inward investment there is growing. We have representatives in Ghana and Nigeria but want to have more of a presence there. We would also like to expand in the UK to cities like Birmingham and Manchester.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years’ time?
Hopefully have more holidays. I have given myself a goal to retire at 55 so within the next five to ten years I plan to write more books, expand the business and have a lot more leisure time
What advice would you give to people wanting to start their own business?
Make sure you seek professional advice and ensure you get the finances right because cash flow is important. Get a business mentor, someone who you can speak and relate to when things aren’t going well as business can be tough at times. Generally, just be focused.
What is your philosophy on life?
Live your dreams. No point in saying I wish, I wish. Trying out and testing ideas. Sometimes people can set you back but it’s about what is in your heart and having a passion and going for it.