What do you do when your city is flooded, claiming more than 230 lives, and one of the causes of the flood is choked drainages due to disposed single used plastics? You start a company which addresses the root of the problem. And that is exactly what Derrick Kofi Sarfo did. After the disaster in Ghana in 2015, he decided to realize better packaging alternatives, which are eco-friendly and biodegradable. So, he gave birth to DercolBags as an alternative packaging solution to the non-degradable single-use plastic packages and as part of a bigger social impact mission: To make his country cleaner.
Orange Corners HQ spoke with Derrick on his company, his mission and inspiration, his Orange Corners participation and his plans for the future.
On the question why he loves to work with women Derrick has a quick and clear answer. The source of inspiration was his mother. Derrick was born and raised in a family of 8. His mom was a business woman and he grew up watching her trade. He admires his mother for providing for her family by working hard every day. It also encouraged him to work with women in his company and mostly doing business with women. The paper bags DercolBags produces are distributed to market women, who sell them to individuals. Dercol also works with companies (40%), but most of the profits (60%) are being made on the markets. So, the goal is to expand to more markets and to produce locally.
Besides that Derrick has two female coaches, who help him to be an entrepreneur. He wants to benefit women, because according to him, women are being marginalized in Ghana. However, a lot of businesses such as markets and restaurants are women led. Also by reducing plastics he indirectly helps Ghanaian women fisher folks, because there’s so much plastic in the sea, that they fish up more plastics than fish.
Orange Corners provided structure to the company
DercolBags got officially registered as a company in 2018. A friend recommend Derrick to join the Orange Corners incubation programme and in 2020/2021 Derrick participated in cohort 3 in Ghana. On the question what did you learn, the most important answer Derrick gave us, was that it helped him to structure his business, because till then he had no strategy. He learned about business models, KPI’s and to pitch his business to business investors. To put it shortly, his Orange Corners’ participation made the company investment ready. And for Derrick it did not stop after successfully completing cohort 3. Firstly, Dercol was selected for the Orange Corners Innovation Fund (OCIF). OCIF is an additional programme to Orange Corners, which aims to stimulate innovation and improve access to finance for entrepreneurs. With the money granted, Derrick is planning to buy a new machine, to increase production and reduce costs.
‘Helping fellow entrepreneurs is so fulfilling. It is a pleasure to pass knowledge on’.
And secondly, nowadays Derrick has become an advisor for Orange Corners cohorts 5 and 6. He is now an experienced entrepreneur and he helps current incubatees solving problems. Derrick says: ‘Helping fellow entrepreneurs is so fulfilling. It is a pleasure to pass knowledge on’.
His advice to newcomers is: ‘Do Orange Corners right from the start and get a mentor. ‘Because you get skills, you’re able to get funding’. Derrick got help form Luuk Hackeng, from OC implementing partner MDF. He gave him a checklist to get ready for the OCIF pitch and even now he keeps in touch with Derrick. Derrick is also part of the OC Alumni Community and attends regularly the online meetings. This also helps him building his network. That’s how he met a similar company from Nigeria.
Big plans for the future
When we ask Derrick what his plans for the future are, we notice that Derrick is a very ambitious man. He’s got lots of plans.
First of all he wants to build hubs, not only in Ghana, but also in surrounding countries, with local production. These hubs also function as training centers for mainly women, who bring their sustainable and locally produced packages to the market. This way he wants to create micro-businesses. In the long term he would like to turn these hubs into fully fledge factories and training centers. Countries he’s thinking of are West-African Countries, such as Benin, Togo and Nigeria. This is also where the OC alumni community comes in helpful as he met a Nigerian entrepreneur with more or less the same product. And they are investigating ways to cooperate.
Secondly, his aim for the future is to grow his production by buying new machines. He wants to increase the production to 6 million paper bags a month.
And thirdly, along with his partners, he has a second company named Spex. With this company he introduces re-usable packaging containers to restaurants. Restaurants provide them to consumers and Derrick and his team pick up the containers, clean them and re-distribute them to the restaurants again. These containers can be used 100.000 times before going into recycling. Derrick and his partners would like to franchise this solution in other parts of Africa.
Currently Dercol has a team of 6 in the office and 10 production Staff. When the new machine comes he would like to extend the production team to 100 people, of which 60% women. Besides that he employs a marketing team on commission basis and he would like to employ more women for the distribution of the bags. He thinks he can create up to a 1,000 indirect jobs. So, enough plans!
Grateful for opportunities given
At the end of the interview Derrick would like to add that he’s grateful. Grateful, because he has been given a lot of opportunities. He also believes that if you’re ambitious, there’s always a way to get things done. His ambition gave him the opportunity to participate in the Orange Corners programme and he doesn’t take this for granted. Derrick is humble for the time, resources and money been put available to him and his company.
More information on DercolBags: Dercol Bags (dercolbagsgh.com)