Many are inspired by young men and women who rise against all odds and the ridicule of people to make a name for themselves, their families, and the generations ahead. This is the beautiful story of Anthony Dzamefe CEO, of Caveman Watches and Time Piece GH who quits his low-paying job and venturing into the unknown to start his own business.
Now, Caveman Watches makes global standard bespoke or customized wristwatches right here in Ghana and has since been featured by The New York Times, Forbes, and many other publications, who recognize him as one of the foremost young entrepreneurs on the continent. The Caveman watches brand has been endorsed by the likes of Akon, Don Jazzy, and many others.
He has won so many awards including the recent 2021 CEO of the year with the Pan-African awards scheme and has also been shortlisted as 1 of the 5 most influential Ghanaian Entrepreneurs, which is curated by PR & Rating firm, Avance Media.
According to Anthony, he got into wristwatches and their production on a rather accidental note. He shares his journey with Forbes and How We Made It Africa;
“To be honest I got into watches by accident – before 2015 I had never even owned a watch. I was working for a hotel in Accra, holding up name cards for passengers arriving at the airport, earning around $80 per month. It wasn’t a good job, and I knew I needed to find another opportunity or face being stuck there for years.”
“There was a boutique across the road from me – I started taking photos of their watches and advertising them on social media with an added markup. When someone bought an item, I would go and buy it from the boutique, and keep a part of the sales price. This arrangement worked well at first but wasn’t very scalable, so I began talking directly to the people supplying the boutiques – the ones importing replica watches from China. I started with one watch, then two, then three. Every time I sold a watch I used the money to buy more watches.”
“I was selling watches in car parks and on university campuses. I got a lot of ridicule from friends and family. People said it wasn’t a respectable trade. Even my colleagues at the airport said it was better to stay there. My mother had found me a job at a bank, which I didn’t want to take. I had to promise her that if things didn’t work out after one year, I would go back and try the banking job.”
“As I sold more and more watches, I started looking for opportunities to add more value and to take over more of the value chain. I researched the original manufacturers and started ordering directly from China. I studied the watch repairers on the roadside, so I could offer additional services to my existing customers. And I spent two months working as an apprentice to a cobbler, learning how to work leather as I had noticed that a lot of customers had nice watches but poor straps. All these helped me to hone my knowledge and build a reputation as an expert in watches.”
“People spend a lot of money on watches in Ghana, more so than other countries, but it is mostly on imported replicas. There weren’t any high-quality watches being made in Ghana itself.”
“To understand the production process, I broke down other watches into their individual components, then looked to see which local factories could make each part. I’d spent so much time working with watches over the previous three years that I knew the watches inside out, I knew which parts tended to wear out quickly and which parts needed to be stronger.”
“Ultimately, I didn’t see starting my own brand as being a large risk because I had spent years building up my customer database and understanding my customers and the market. So when I did start, I was confident I would hit the ground running.”
“I put together a business plan and started pitching for investment. I got my hopes up a number of times but eventually, it all came to nothing, so I thought why not just self-finance? I took everything I had earnt to that point to make an initial 50 watches, which was the smallest possible run given our suppliers’ minimum orders. This was the original Blue Volta watch, which we pitched at a low price of 250 cedis (around $40) so that I could recoup my investment quickly and invest in the next, bigger, run of watches.”
“From when I started, I was always keen to build a brand and product that could be sold globally – not just in Ghana. The last few years, there has been a huge wave of interest in African brands both domestically and globally, and we have timed things well there. I think the revolution began with Black Panther, back in 2018 – that was when Africa really began to be ‘cool’.”
“The core of our marketing strategy has always been reputation and word-of-mouth. We are an aspirational brand, and we want the entire customer experience to feel premium. You’ll see on our Instagram and website we have slick imagery and visuals, and we take care to package our items beautifully. We also work with a number of brand ambassadors including [music mogul] Don Jazzy, and we have made watches for the likes of Nana Akufo-Addo, Akon and Sarkodie among others. More recently we have started doing traditional PR work and strategic billboards as well. ”
His advice to the youth
In the interview, Anthony Dzamefe advised the youth “to build a brand; it will bring you money later on… you will end up making a lot of bad decisions if your focus is just on the money”.