Okyere-Dede wants to fill a gap in the market by providing architectural services to lower-income communities.
“There’s a common misconception that architectural services are only required in certain ‘upmarket’ areas and are expensive and superfluous,” she explains.
She enjoys helping people improve their homes or build new ones. “I see the projects being built from the ground up and the client’s response to the final product, while also having the freedom to express my creativity. My biggest milestone was when one of the first projects I worked on was completed and the client called me back to take on another project.”
The toughest parts of running her own business are managing cash flow, dealing with difficult clients who don’t understand municipal processes and being a female in a male-dominated industry. When times are tough, however, Okyere-Dede’s her faith keeps her afloat. “I believe God has led me along this path and I trust that He’ll carry out his plans for me and my family,” she says.
“There’s a huge misperception that being a black woman in this sector guarantees you a free pass to success and automatic funding! I believe in excellence, always delivering to the best of your ability and being keen to learn. Hard work is the only way to success.”
Another misconception is that, as her own boss, Okyere-Dede can wake up whenever she wants and that she’s always available to clients. In reality, she must be strict about not letting her work intrude on family time, especially as she currently works from home. There are perks, though – her husband also sometimes works from home and she enjoys making breakfast with him.
She believes one-person ventures make an important contribution. “All businesses have a starting point. A one-person entrepreneur is someone who’s decided to start, change or fix something – and who isn’t content to simply be a consumer. SA’s unemployment crisis needs people to take the lead and just start. When these businesses grow, they’ll be able to teach and employ other people.”
In her own case, she believes servicing neglected areas will help address illegal construction and the resulting risk and income loss for municipalities, while also improving communities.
In future, she hopes to expand her business nationally, taking on projects that build and benefit communities, and to expand into property development and management, focusing on inner-city regeneration as a way of creating sustainable, compact and resilient urban hubs.