Stories abound! There are glory stories, glorious stories, of miraculous happenings and amazing people doing amazing things: defying odds, helping others. David-and-Goliath stories, with big problems and big obstacles to be vanquished — just the kind of stories that make, well, good stories. But they need to be told. By you. By me.
Consider the amazing tale of Esther Afua Ocloo, who started her own business and launched an entrepreneurial career as a teenager in the 1930s on less than a dollar. With ingenuity, hard work, and perseverance, she quickly rose to become one of Ghana’s leading entrepreneurs. She also became a worldwide inspiration. Known as “Auntie Ocloo,” Esther dedicated her life to helping others with few resources but big ideas succeed just as she had.
In addition to building and running her own own business, Esther shared her skills with other women and co-founded Women’s World Banking, a global micro-lending organization. She’s actually a pioneer in micro-lending and helped transform countless lives by helping women launch ventures with small sums of money. “Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power,” she said in a speech in 1990. “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.”
Here’s how she started: As a high school graduate with only a few Ghanian shillings from an aunt, she bought sugar, oranges and 12 jars to make marmalade jam. Ocloo sold them at a profit, ignoring the jibes of her former classmates, who dismissed her as an “uneducated street vendor” — she certainly had the last laugh! She quickly won a contract to supply her high school with marmalade jam and orange juice, and later managed to secure a deal to furnish the military with her goods. Leveraging that contract, she took out a bank loan.
In 1942, she set up a business under her maiden name, “Nkulenu” and quickly grew it. Esther then traveled to England to take a course in Food Science and Modern Processing Techniques at Bristol University. In 1953, determined to expand her business with her newly acquired expertise in food processing and preservation, she returned to Ghana with a mission to help her country and women become self-sufficient. Today, Nkulenu Industries, the company she started still makes orange marmalade and exports Ghanian food items to markets abroad.
What an amazing tale of determination and derring-do! I came across it because Esther inspired today’s Google search engine artwork in honor of her accomplishments — I hope you’ll check it out. If you click on the artwork, it will take you to on-line stories about Esther, which just goes to show that stories really are everywhere — even embedded in the Amazonian “Google” name, which certainly is a story in itself. What stories are waiting for you today? Write on!