Welcome to the first of a series of interviews we will be having with the minds behind the amazing brands you see at Dziffa.
This week, we sat down with Paul Kweku Akrofie, the founder and CEO of the Real People’s Company (RPC) to get some insights on what inspired him to start the company, how RPC bags are made and a peek into his journey as both an entrepreneur and a manufacturer.
Tighten your seatbelt, guys. Things are just about to get REAL!
How long have you been making bags and what inspired you to make bags?
In my final year in senior high school, my friends and I thought about creating a design company. We started off with designing T-shirts from illustrations I made, but we faced the issue with them being illegal because students weren't allowed to wear graphic T-shirts. Bags were however an acceptable accessory to have, and gym sacks were pretty popular because they were simple and convenient.
We figured that was a better venture. Looking to do something different, I noticed students were wearing their backpacks inverted to give them a flat compact look and also because some had broken zippers and it was the only way to keep their stuff intact. Inspired, I designed and introduced my first bags, which were a combination of jeans or khaki fabrics with African material accents and embroidered illustrations called Flat Packs.
We knew we were on to something when our mates just couldn't believe we had designed and made the bags ourselves. It was pretty exciting early days.
Can you walk us through the process of making an RPC bag? Where do you draw your inspiration?
I've always had an appreciation for brands like Nike and Adidas who make functional gear and even more so for their ability to create iconic pieces with their upscale brands like Jordan's. It bothered me that I could see no African equivalents, so I set out to create one. My desire was to create a product that could compete on merits of style and functionality versus origin, and the last thing I wanted was for anyone to buy a holder just because it was made in Ghana.
I didn't want my stuff to be perceived as arts and craft, as many of our locally made products are categorized, because I believe that despite all the setbacks we face, quality can come from Africa. So, drawing inspiration from our long history and tradition of weaving specifically Kente, which is pretty much a box weave at its core, every Holder by RPC is uniquely hand woven from different strands of webbing to form our unique signature mesh weave on a backpack.
What can we expect from RPC this year? Are there any collections we should look out for?
Our goal this year is to ramp up the production and quality of our existing product lines to meet demand and spread our reach. We will revive and introduce some new products such as our laptop sleeves, a messenger bag and a tote we've had in the works for a while now. Probably not on the same scale as we have planned for our backpacks and carry cases but, let's see how it goes.
You are very young, and you are not only an entrepreneur but also a manufacturer. How has the journey been, juggling both entrepreneurship and manufacturing? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you give aspiring manufacturers?
Entrepreneurship anywhere in the world takes heart and persistence, much more so on this side of our rock which can be very unforgiving of mistakes. Hence for a laid back personality like I have, it's been somewhat of a jarring experience and certainly kicked me out of my comfort zone on way too many occasions to account for.
Truth be told, mentorship is indispensable in the entrepreneurial journey and I've come to discover that those who have made great strides have been humble enough to seek the help and leading of people ahead of them.
So seek guidance, learn the business behind the business, as mundane and routine as it may be, aim for consistency and sustainability across board and don't get too caught up in fads or media hype for that matter.
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