It was his dream to secure a prestigious job at one of the leading banks in Ghana and education from a top tier secondary school in the country – Achimota School, as well as further studies at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom was enough to put him on the right track to achieving greatness in the field of banking.
But 12 months into securing such a job and living his dream as a member of the ‘white-collar family’, John Nana Addo Francois quit.
His reason? A lack of satisfaction.
“Sometimes life speaks to you and you sort of gain some clarity…I wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t feel like there was enough of an impact from my daily activities, so I looked elsewhere,” the Chief Executive Officer of Asili Coffee Purveyors ltd said to Kwabena Kyenkyenhene Boateng on the business edition of 21 minutes with KKB.
A bold move, you would say of a gentleman willing to quit his childhood dream in pursuit of God knows what, but the next stages of Francois’ life were even more interesting.
Days turned into weeks, and John Francois was still not clear on what it is he truly wanted to do to fill the void that drove him out of the banking hall.
With roots in Akropong Akuapem, John would visit his family one day and discover that he had a strong connection to local farmers in the community.
Alas, the eureka moment – Farming!
With no knowledge whatsoever in farming, interest was enough to get the ball rolling for the 31-year-old Akora who now produces Africa’s finest premium coffee and is exporting to several countries on the continent and in the United States of America.
“On journeys there (Akropong) I look at the area and I feel like okay look let me contribute my own quota to my community as well. When you look around you’d see that there are vast fertile lands and so it clicks that agriculture is something this area can support…I drink a lot of coffee, most bankers do. So I was like maybe I can go into this…I chose coffee because my grandfather on my mother’s side also planted coffee in an area called Ahabanten,” Francois said.
Francois would spend weeks in Akropong, interacting with farmers, understanding their needs and “learning on the job” in a build-up to becoming the Chief Executive Officer of a young Fast-Moving Consumer Good (FMCG) company.
“Actually I was just a consumer, like everybody else. I had to learn on the job which is something that I encourage a lot of people to do. Just because you don’t have a general background in something doesn’t mean you can’t actually teach yourself. There are a lot of resources nowadays – online, free courses, even some of our friends who have studied and are now tutoring others as well – self learning”
Having gained a fair amount of knowledge on the job, coupled with his genuine interest in farming, Francois was ready to get things into action, except, he didn’t have the necessary funds.
For a vision as big as what he had – producing and processing premium coffee for export – the young man will need more than ideas and words.
Like many young entrepreneurs, John Francois had to dip into his personal savings while relying on support from family members to start his business.
“You need to prove certain things to people. You need to engage in market research, lay out a proper plan because nobody is going to give you free money like that…I had to put together a proper plan and I managed to get some seed capital from within our family ranks. From there, we introduced coffee to the Akuapem area. We leaned on some initiatives that are currently happening and we managed to get some seedlings to the Akuapem area but in order to get the seedlings to come to the Akuapem area we needed to put the factory up first.”
“You have zero track record, I mean think about it, who are you? At the startup stage there’s always that issue which is why it is advisable to start something bootstrapped. I started in a garage – in one room with one grinder,” Francois recounted in his interview on 21 minutes with KKB.
Today, John Francois, through his company, Asili Coffee Purveyors ltd with support from the The Kingdom of the Netherlands’ Orange Corners Initiative Fund and the Government of Ghana’s Planting for Export and Rural Development is providing jobs for hundreds of people.
From farmers who grow the coffee beans to people who work in his factory and the all women sales team that place Asili as a continental contender in terms of impact and quality. John Nana Addo Francois is creating value for several families and he is satisfied, more satisfied than he was while living his childhood dream as a banker.
Kwabena Kyenkyenhene Boateng/21 Minutes with KKB