Elliot Lartey on how he got started, 2015 Prospects, and why friends matter
The Ghanaian fashion industry is on the ascendancy. Many Ghanaians are now wearing with pride, African wax and confidently flaunting other accessories draped in fine African prints. It is uncommon; nowadays to walk down the streets of Accra or other towns in Ghana without encountering numerous people clad nicely in African apparels.
The current boom-if I may call it such-is pinged on two reasons. Firstly, the undeniable resplendence of the African wax and the tasteful designs that local fashion designers cut out from them. These designs are eye catching and reek of quality.
Secondly, is the affordable nature of these products. The affordability factor means that many customers, who hitherto were unable to buy, can now patronize products without breaking the bank. That is, people could now wear or own clothes and other accessories of almost the same quality as big name brands at lower prices.
Interestingly, this revolution is led by young designers with ideas which can be described as hip, cosmopolitan and contemporary which meets the taste of their targeted audience, the youth.One of these young creative minds making strides on the fashion scene is Elliot Lartey whose brand Two Cedi has garnered massive customer base within a year.
‘Sitting behind a desk in a corporate office isn’t my thing. I love to move and create’
Elliot Lartey known among friends as Eli Sparrow is known for producing branded T-Shirts but in recent times he has expanded his portfolio to include hand-made bags, phone covers, sandals, foot wears (Chuck Taylors) and other accessories. With the brand “Two Cedi”Eli leads a team of five made up of three tailors, a phone cover designer and a sandal maker. They currently operate fromTeshie.
In a recent interaction Republic Bar at Osu, Eli explained that “…the idea was to produce all (products) at a go but due to financial challenges I had to roll them one after the other”…
The 23 year old entrepreneur said he was inspired to get into the fashion business following an advice he got from Castle Black Anyatei, a superior of his during his internship days with Cultural Apparel. The advice was to ‘create and people will love it’. Juxtaposedto this was the fact that the “Two Cedi” man literally grew up at the Arts Centre where his dad operated a shop. Elliot’s grew up with arts infused into his consciousness.
The decision to go into business was made after his tertiary education at IPMC (now College of Technology), where he studied Graphics and Web Design. “…I realized I can’t do an office job, where I’ll have to sit behind a desk all day. I love to create. I love to move, to walk and meet people thus my decision to do something I love…” Elliot explained.
Two Cedi has been operating for almost a year –having been officially launched in 2013. The gains chalked during this short spell have been impressive. ‘I sold over 500 T-Shirts last year, with over 200 T-Shirts sold at ChaleWote Festival’ (a Street Art Festival organized by Accra Dot Alt).Their biggest sale so far, Elliot told me with a smile.
“Now I can come to Republic Bar and eat yam and chicken wings”
Like all small start ups, success did not come following an eye bat. There were challenges from the onset-with the primary challenges being finance and how to get the right people to work with. He scaled these challenges through loans from family members and friends and identifying the right people who related to his dream. ‘Now I can come to Republic Bar and eat yam and chicken wings’ (pointing to the dish we were having) as evidence of his solvency, he joked.
The year 2015 has begun on a high for Elliott Lartey. His table is full with orders from Ghana and Europe for various Two Cedi merchandise. The quantum of demand made him take an extra two weeks to rest before going to work fully. “I need to be full of energy to tackle all these orders”.
One of his major challenges with regards to selling abroad seems to be coming to an end. Discussions are far advanced with a distributor in Europe interested in distributing his products.
The choice of label name –Two Cedi-has an interesting story behind it. According to Elliot, his local soccer team at Teshie asked players to pay Ghc 2 before featuring for the team. Everybody paid except him but ended up playing. ‘Before I knew it, I was being called 2 cedisby everyone in the hood’.
This year, Two Cedi merchandize will be under the theme ‘The People Will Love Us’. This follows earlier themes such as ‘Vim Tinz’ and ‘DUNA’. The latter being an idea he borrowed from Graassle, a friend of his.
Elliot’s ambition for the future is to have a bigger workshop around Osu. Something he’s keen to realize before the year ends. He also looks at opening a Two Cedi goods shop. Elliot envisages setting up in a not too distant future, his own footwear company,moving away from the practice of redesigning brands such as Chuck Taylor (All Star) and other footwear producing distributors to making them look better.
On how he markets his products, he points to his website and other social media platforms. He does also, what he describes as ‘mobile marketing’ where he carries some of his products everywhere he goes. He takes advantages of street bazaars and events such as Save The Rex, ChaleWote Festival, Asabako to market his wears. He also pitches a stand at Alliance Francaise whenever there is an event.
‘Your business will succeed or fail based on the testimony people will share with others’
On what keeps him motivated and inspired, Elliot points to the numerous individuals he encounters each day. Through such interactions he is able to pick ideas from them whiles explaining to them what goes into making his products. ‘They come to understand and appreciate what I do; the efforts that goes into making one item’.
Another source of inspiration comes from creating and the arts itself. He, however, bemoaned the ‘disrespect’ the arts receives in Ghana and ‘I’m in to help change that perception and shape it’.
Elliot Lartey attributes his ‘little’ success to the support he got (and still gets) from family members (his mum whom he owes some money) and friends such as musician Wanlov the Kubolor, Mutombo Da Poet and Josephine Kuurie of Mumble Photography. Wanlov is the official ambassador for Two Cedi clothing, noting ‘friends and family inspire me to strive for the best and not fail’
Though he had to give away or less at a lower price to friends when he started in 2013, he doesn’t regret his decision as they were the ones who told the world about his products.
‘Your business will succeed or fail based on the testimony people will share with others (about your products or services). And if your friends begin to talk ill about your stuff, then you need to be worried. That’s why I go the extra mile to make all Two Cedi products stand out in terms of quality. I don’t and won’t compromise on that’, he told me in a conspiratorial manner.
Visit Two Cedi on www.twocedi.com.
Also on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook by searching Two Cedi.