There are not a lot of people like Derick Manu-Acheampong (Marique): not a lot of people get the opportunities that he has had. And though he would never say so, not a lot of people have the talent that he has. Derrick wanted to pursue his passion for fashion; he wanted to turn the ideas that he had in his mind into reality.
However, life rarely gives us our dreams on a silver platter. After university, there are few among us who have a lot of options open to us. And fewer still, who have the foundation upon which to build something of their own. Marique didn’t either, but the Kwasi Marique brand exists today because he never took his eyes off the dream.
We Dream When We’re Young
University is a time for self-discovery. It is usually when we learn the real-life ways in which we can follow our interests. The same was true for Marique. While he studied Fine Arts at KNUST, Marique discovered his interest in African Prints. He had a voracious appetite for style. However, he also knew how stressful it would be to get local tailors to keep up with his design whims and ideas. So, he thought, why not just do it himself?
Luckily, some kind person gifted Marique’s mother a hand-sewing machine around that time. So, during one of the long vacations from school, he started learning how to sew things. He approached a tailor he knew, and well … signed up for an apprenticeship of sorts. However, the learning experience only lasted a week because ultimately, Marique felt that their learning and teaching methods were just incompatible.
Naturally, the only option left for someone with this much determination was to go to Woodin, get some fabric and teach himself. By his final year in KNUST, Marique was already at the point where he was selling some of his creations.
And Then We Have To Get A Job
During his national service, Marique was still making clothes on the side. This was something that he was not letting go of; Marique planned to go big after his service. He was going to invest in his passion. However, sometimes life just hits you in the face.
Staying in Kumasi at the time, one of his parents fell sick. Any funds that would have gone to his dream had to go to treatment. As a result, Marique had to choose a job that he wasn’t too enthusiastic about in order to actually make some money.
For this job, his first job, at a PR company, Marique relocated to Accra. According to him, the experience that he received at the company was worth more than the paycheck was. Although he was hired as a graphic designer, he dabbled in photography, videography and content creation to the point that he became able to carry himself in those fields. He even amassed a sizeable social media following with a series of photographs that told stories outside of the context that they were taken in.
Things were stable because of his job. But you can’t save for your passion if you aren’t earning enough. And at that point, working overtime at this job became normal and Marique started to be spread thin. Eventually, he would quit that job in order to pursue something of his own. It was a difficult decision, but Marique still maintains good relations with his boss and everyone that he worked with.
Sometimes Opportunities Come Calling
So now, with some skills in his pocket and a fair understanding of how the field worked, Marique started a creative agency. One of the toughest lessons he had to learn then, was that branding is everything. Marique recalls a meeting with a client that was amazing, really. He pitched his agency, his ideas and it felt like he got somewhere with the client. However, he feels all that work was undone when that client saw him waiting outside for a taxi after the meeting. “Branding is everything.”
Around that same time, when things hadn’t really taken off for his agency, his sister put him in contact with a start-up. Here is where things get interesting; the start-up was built around an app, MedRX. And after Marique became a part of the team, they entered MedRX into the MTN-Jumia App challenge. Marique recalls with some enthusiasm the animation that the team went with instead of a regular PowerPoint as panellists were probably used to.
The team qualified, went to the finals in Johannesburg and then … won. Winning came with $25,000 and incubation in Nairobi. The incubation is basically a grooming period for start-ups where the company’s model is transformed into something feasible on a global scale and that can make money.
After incubation, the start-up evolved. And the core focus of the company changed as a result of some investor decisions. Marique had experienced some of the pitfalls of working with a small company at his previous job. And now, again, the lack of structure saw him back at a point where he wasn’t too enthusiastic about his job. He quit. Again.
It Happens Eventually—If You Don’t Give Up
If you’ve been following so far, you understand that Marique is capable. So, it’s not really surprising that someone believed in him, and invested in his dream. A close friend, who he considers family, told her sister about Marique. That whole conversation ends with the sister of the friend agreeing to invest in what he needed to start sewing again. She gave him the seed that would birth what Kwasi Marique is today.
Of course, Marique was prepared. He had done the digital branding work for the company already. He had computer-generated models of his designs, and he had some contacts in China to get clothing labels for his creations. That journey and the Kwasi Marique brand started in 2018. In less than two weeks, Derrick is starting a campaign. His first collection isn’t what he always saw it as, but it’s not going to be any less special.
In the next 5 years, Marique wants to go to fashion school. That’s a piece of his plan to turn Kwasi Marique into a household name in Ghana. Then, he has designs on the rest of Africa.
Your finishing has to be on-point.
– Derrick Manu-Acheampong
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