By Edem Torkornoo
First published in Ayiba Magazine (March 2014)
Fred Deegbe is the founder and CEO of the Ghanaian shoemaking social enterprise Heel the World (H.T.W.). Fred, who describes himself as a shoemaker, graduated from Ashesi University with a degree in Business Administration. At the end of 2011, he decided to leave his job in banking to start a high-end shoemaking company aimed at showing the world that some of the best things can come out of Africa. Today, H.T.W. is more than a business that makes bespoke shoes. It has become a brand that empowers young Africans, be it through its popular beads, shoes, or startup consulting unit. Ayiba’s Edem Torkornoo spoke with Fred via Skype about his thoughts on the concept of African Renaissance, building a business, and what he has learnt so far.
Edem: What will you define African Renaissance as?
Fred: For me renaissance is a beautiful way of tackling social issues. When I think of renaissance, I don’t think of uprising or rebellion, which are usually the things that people tend to turn to when they want to change a situation. It’s something that people can hold on to, like the “Africa rising” tag as opposed to “the youth are tired of the government” or “give us jobs.”
Edem: What will you say is the role of companies like H.T.W. in the development and renaissance of Africa?
Fred: We want to be a brand that lets people around the world know that there is something incredible happening in Africa. We are not just about fashion. You can call us anything dope or unorthodox coming out of Africa. This is what we intangibly represent. We started with fashion because it’s easier on the eyes and has a wider appeal. Tangibly, we make beautiful handmade bespoke shoes and leather accessories – for now. We’re going to expand soon. We are the real deal.