Today’s Entrepreneurial Inspiration is Esther Afua Ocloo.
Esther was a Ghanian entrepreneur who excelled way beyond expectations despite numerous odds stacked against her.
Let’s explore what we can learn from a life well live and become more Financially Alert in the process.
Esther Afua Ocloo’s Impact
Esther Afua Ocloo is considered one of the earliest pioneers in the area of microlending. She helped to found the Women’s World Banking (WWB) in 1976. From here she was able to provide micro-loans to underprivileged entrepreneurs, the majority being women.
Fast forward to today and microlending has exploded in popularity thanks to the Internet.
Microlending is a way to help assist those on a lower income who need assistance with launching their entrepreneurial idea.
Micro-loans are given to people who may otherwise not qualify for a traditional bank loan. In today’s digital age, think of companies like Kiva.org.
Early Life Biography
Esther Afua Nkulenu was born on April 18, 1919, in Ghana. She was born into poverty and faced harsh economic conditions. Her father was a blacksmith and her mother was a farmer and potter.
At the direction of her grandmother, Esther studied at a Presbyterian primary school. She advanced to a boarding school at Peki Blengo and later won a scholarship to the Achimota School.
Esther always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She started a food processing business supplying orange juice and marmalades to the Achimota School. She was then sponsored to study abroad in England where she learned the latest in food processing. Following her studies, she returned home to Ghana, married and started a family.
Esther Afua Ocloo worked hard at building her company. She started out small with less than a dollar (10 Shillings) to buy supplies. And her tenacity paid off. She was able to sell her marmalades to her classmates, then the Achimota School, and then the country. Eventually, her enterprise would become an international distributor of food.
I couldn’t find any information on her net worth when she passed, but it was likely substantial.
Beyond her own success, she wanted to help other women to become financially independent. “Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power.” – quotes Ester Afua Ocloo.
She spent a tremendous amount of time teaching other women about business, food production, and agriculture. Esther wanted to empower those who felt powerless so that their children didn’t suffer the same hardships as she had to endure.
In 1979, Esther Afua Ocloo helped to found Women’s World Banking and became the first Chairman of the Board.
What We Can Learn
I think it’s important to realize Esther Afua Ocloo’s initial courage. She had every reason to believe life was stacked against her. And yet, she wasn’t willing to accept her environment as a disadvantage.
While hawking her marmalades in the early days she was often ridiculed by people who viewed her as an uneducated street vendor.
Instead, Esther ventured out with courage early on and began building success after success.
You see, it’s easy to rest on our laurels once we reach a certain level of success. BUT, if you stop there, then you give up on the remaining potential you have inside of you.
Learn to lean into fear and act with courage so that you may experience the life that you deserve.
Quotes by Ester Afua Ocloo
- ”I was ridiculed by all my classmates, who saw me hawking marmalade on the street like an uneducated street vendor.”
- ”Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power”
- ”You cannot go and be begging to your husband for every little thing, but at the moment, that’s what the majority of our women do.”
- ”My main goal is to help my fellow women. If they make better marmalade than me, I deserve the competition.”
Esther Afua Ocloo died in 2002 after a bout with pneumonia. However, she is well remembered today for her massive contribution to Ghana and the world.
I’m always taken aback by the courage world leaders take and ask myself what am I doing to make a positive impact in this world. Am I living up to my full potential?
For me, I’ve taken an oath to lean into fear and make it a habit. Without growth, we aren’t able to know our full potential and so I welcome you to join me on this challenge.
Do something that scares you. For me, that’s starting up a podcast and YouTube channel when I’m afraid of speaking (stay tuned!).
The more you do it, the better you become, and the bigger the impact you’ll make.
Readers, what the most courageous thing you did this year so far? What new action will you take for the coming year?