She had been careful about entrepreneurship in the past, having been engaged in several projects but not promoting her entrepreneurial skills, compared to activism and advocacy, her first love.
Golda Naa Adaku Addo-Baidoo’s first thought when talking business is not about profit, nor is her attitude one of commerciality. She has always been partial to social entrepreneurship rather than pure commerce.
Golda possesses lots of hand-skills. She began a bag-making business nine years ago. She made bags out of local fabrics and woven baskets, but she sold only a few, and gave a lot out for practically free because of her weakness for the struggling human condition. Bags made out of fabrics have now become a trendy and viable business in West Africa, and a competitive industry in Ghana. She also began a small-scale catering business which she abandoned after three years. It was through this that she was recruited to be part of the strategisation, set-up, and management of Tema’s (then) first-ever coffee shop by an entrepreneur in Tema (a city in Ghana with the biggest and busiest sea port serving Ghana and other inland countries in West Africa). She stayed and worked with them for few months and left again due to lack of synergy in the running of the space and the plans the owners had for it. Throughout these small successes and failures, she acquired valuable business lessons.
She has an eye for spotting opportunities in almost everything she comes into contact with. That led her into the many ventures she has been engaged in. She however mentioned that, the ventures she had started in the past were to make ends meet, and not necessarily to build a sustainable venture.. At some point, however, she challenged herself to take up entrepreneurship and engage in some level of commercial activity – to build a sustainable business. This feeling grew stronger when she began visiting the northern regions of Ghana and seeing their challenges with fuel, and knew what she could provide as solution for them.
Golda is also a strong pillar in environmental activism and safe energy. She blogged often on environmental issues and used social media to share her contributions on the subject. Most blogs at the time put out reactionary content, whereas she put out original and innovative content that looked to future possibilities and the way forward in environmentally-friendly businesses. She was at the forefront of many environmental protection and green energy campaigns, and put forward brilliant ideas in this regard. As a direct result, many youth groups emerged as environmental activists.
Beyond activism, she has been engaged in the production of many environmentally friendly products such as doormats, book covers, chairs and tables, beads etc, all of which she used biodegradable inputs. These products are recycled but functional and aesthetically-pleasant products.
Her desire to create value and consequently, demand for environmentally friendly products grew stronger and stronger, as her entrepreneurial instincts and environmental activism harmonized over time. At the convergence of the two, she knew it was time to create something viable and lasting in environmental protection – an economic legacy of sorts.
The idea of BidiPa came up during one of her many trips to northern Ghana. She witnessed women cutting trees, burning polythene bags, and burning almost anything they found for fuel. This was due to economic challenges they faced but also due to a lack of awareness of the effects of these practices on the environment. Clearly, fuel was a challenge. She reckoned that biogas was not affordable for their economic situation, and began innovating on appropriate technology that could help her help the people make their own fuel in the form of briquettes (eco-friendly charcoal).
She worked on these innovations via her then foundation, Energy Solutions Foundation for several years, until in 2013, when she formed Recyclon Ghana LLC; a legal entity more suited for social entrepreneurship and commerce. Via this company, she hopes to continue producing eco-friendly fuel for domestic use for the people of Ghana and beyond. Like many entrepreneurs, she made sacrifices too. She gave up on profitable and long-term job positions that held her back from fully plowing into her own dreams.
BidiPa briquettes are charcoal made from bio-degradable materials such as paper, plantain and banana peels, cow dung, cards, saw dust and palm-kernel. The product is eco-friendly, and its emissions less harmful than charcoal.
She resolved not to sleep on this idea, but at the same time not rush in a haste to reach the top, as there are many failures waiting along the way. She understood that gradual and careful steps will take the product to every African home.
She began sample production, and consulted experts and friends about the idea several times in order to gain useful feedback for continuous improvement. In April this year, she finally launched the product to much excitement from many people.
The product is quietly selling. There is high demand for it but she believes there’s no need to succumb to market pressure, as more care is needed in distribution and retailership. She also has plans to export the product as part of her business expansion. BidiPa is competitively priced at the same price traditional charcoal is traded, despite its numerous advantages to our homes and the environment, and over time, it will slowly gain its own price in society. The main aim of the product is after all, to make life much better for the most impoverished in society
It is her belief that in the next three years all charcoal sellers would be selling BidiPa, not only for the commercial motive but also to protect the environment. We must save the trees by switching to the use of BidiPa; it is giving jobs, and providing income for the sellers. The low-emissions ‘green charcoal’ is what our environment needs