A Ghanaian-born entrepreneur visiting the Rose Hill campus on March 25 discussed how she found success in America.
Anna Kwakyewaah Pollard, who owns a medical supply firm in San Diego, gave her presentation at the close of Africa Week 2010. The festival included a health fair, film screening, lectures and performances to showcase African culture on campus.
Kwakyewaah Pollard, a nurse who grew up in the African country of Liberia, said she began looking into owning her own business while working at a hospital.
“I always had a passion for helping others, but also saw an opportunity to get into an area that was potentially fruitful,” she said. Today, Kwakyewaah Pollard’s business employs 20 people and has the potential to enter the New York market. But it wasn’t an overnight success story.
“I had to apply for certification, get funding, find a good location, figure out marketing strategies and more,” she said. “Before I got final approval, I had to store supplies in a warehouse for nearly a year. That was tough—having to pay for storage in addition to my mortgage and other bills.”
Kwakyewaah Pollard often speaks at community events for minorities in California on how to run a successful business. She highlighted statistics that put black-owned businesses into perspective:
• In the United States, black-owned businesses make up less than 5 percent of all companies.
• Black-owned businesses are 20 percent more likely to fail within their first four years than white-owned businesses.
• Black-owned businesses tend to start with less capital, and are four times more likely to be denied credit than are white-owned firms.
• In addition, African-Americans are less likely to benefit from the multigenerational family and social ties that often lead to business partnerships among white-owned firms.
“So you can imagine that being African is a huge challenge,” she said. “I remember people asked me why I was opening a business. They said I already had a good job as a nurse. I told them I was doing this so that someday we could do better for ourselves.”
Attitude is important, Kwakyewaah Pollard said. For example, when asked if her accent posed challenges, she said it provides just the opposite.
“My accent is a blessing because when people hear me speak, they ask where I am from,” she said. “Instantly we have an ice breaker.”
Kwakyewaah Pollard, who said she is the sole female owner of a medical supply firm in the San Diego area, offered encouraging words for women in the audience.
“You can do anything,” she said. “Take your time and put all of your effort into it. I’m living proof.”
The theme of Africa Week 2010 was “Culture and Democracy: Using Culture as a Tool to Enhance the Growth of Democracy in Africa.” The Department of African and African-American Studies sponsored the event with the African Cultural Exchange, a student club.
Jane Kani Edward, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow and director of African immigration research and the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP), organized the festival with Kojo Ampah, a third-year student at Fordham College of Liberal Studies and the chair of the Africa Week planning committee.