“I’ve always had a burning desire to step out on my own but I was never brave enough to go for it 100 percent,” says Richmond Osei-Akoto. “It’s a cliché but I was the kid who bought the sweets and sold them for a little more when people were trapped in school and couldn’t go out and buy their own.”
Richmond, 37, founded the online marketplace Afi-Akos last year. His inspiration? The people of Ghana. “They’re so entrepreneurial. If you’re not hustling, you’ll slip through the cracks - there’s no safety net,” he says. “I was born in Ghana and came to the UK when I was five. When I went back aged 22, I was blown away.”
Through Afi-Akos, Richmond sells products and art mainly from Ghana, sharing its spirit of creativity and craftsmanship with customers back in the UK. Wanting to play a part in the success of small Ghanaian businesses is what drove him and inspired him to start his own venture.
“The weirdest thing is that it was the worst time for me to try - I have three very young children. But I knew that if I didn’t do it in counter-intuitive circumstances, I would never do it.” He uses Starling to manage his business finances.
A winding career path
Richmond began his career as a personal banker in a high street bank after studying law at university, and quickly progressed to a role as a financial adviser. “I was a bit restless. I was looking for a way to fast track,” he says.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, he was effectively made redundant. “I took it as an opportunity to step back and figure out what to do.”