Necessity, they say births invention; if you don’t like it, change it. These were the convictions that drove this determined and unassuming Ghanaian man into the shoe making industry. An art seen as unfit for the prim and proper has now become not just a profitable venture but also a noble one. Even though Fred Deegbe was not exactly comfortable with his banking career, yet he had what the average African would call nobler professions to choose from; I mean his father was a pastor and his mother an educationist, but none of those professions could gain his interest.
The restless entrepreneur, Fred’s career in banking could be likened to a runner in a marathon, who was running on someone else’s track. He knew it was time to change tracks but he wasn’t sure how or when it was going to be; he had never been a fan of the conventional and ordinary.
Fred once visited a friend who laughed him to scorn because he wore one of those kinds of shoes that look like they are mocking the wearer; [If you’ve had one, you will definitely know what I mean]. In a bid to restore his dignity, he went in search of a better pair of shoes. A few steps down the street, he spots this beautiful pair of shoes;
“As I admired them in the window of the store, a shoeshine boy walked by. I raced outside to ask him if he could make a pair like these. He said it was impossible. I was stunned. I asked if he could make a shoe not a spaceship! This encounter with the shoeshine boy prompted the journey which I am on right now”.
Fred had a genuine desire to muffle the ‘it is impossible mentality’ that was gradually siphoning the creativity of his people. Without any prior knowledge of shoemaking, Fred assured himself that he could make do with the one thing he had; ‘self motivation’. So he signed a partnership with Vijay Manu, a twenty one year old boy to start ‘Heel the World’. His passion was not just to make shoes but more importantly, to open the windows of a better perception and creative innovations to his people.
His ‘Heel the World’ brand also makes wrist beads (empowerment beads as they are called), which is fast selling, within and outside the country. “Our mantra is that hard work is rewarded, and that’s what our beads represent. The black stones represent struggle, and the one gold bead represents what we all work for – the reward. We hope that it can serve as a reminder, in times when people are overwhelmed and feel disheartened, that there’s a reason we do what we do.”
Heel the World’s beads and shoes have not only helped reshape shoemaking, but also the mind sets of consumers in Ghana about locally made goods.
With his wealth of experience from the Asheshi University and a year of shoemaking, Fred has been reaching out to African youths, teaching them how to be independent and entrepreneurial. Heel the World also has a foundation that works with some non-profit organizations to lend a helping hand to the deprived in his country.
“When I began, many people laughed at me for making Ghanaian shoes. A year later I am on my way to the World Economic Forum in Ethiopia BECAUSE of my Ghanaian shoes.”
Now Fred not only makes shoes and beads, he also transforms lives. What’s your excuse?