CNN features banker turned shoemaker and Ashesi alumnus Fred Deegbe, and his mission to change perceptions of African fashion through the start-up he co-founded, Heel the World. Watch Fred’s interview with CNN ‘African Start-Up’.
A few years ago, Fred walked out of a store in Ghana with a new pair of high-end Pierre Cardin shoes. As he admired his new shoes, Fred wondered why craftsmen in Ghana could not have made them, and it was this very question he asked the cobbler he ran into as he walked out of the store. The answer he received from the cobbler, that it was “impossible”, was one he was not expecting – especially since Ghana’s craftsmen are renowned for their skill.
“I was surprised! It was almost as if I had asked him about making a spaceship,” says Fred. “But I realized that it fit with a widespread Ghanaian dependency on foreign innovation. Local entrepreneurs had moved away from competing with luxury brands worldwide because it had become almost impossible to gain as much acceptance – especially on the perceived quality of products.”
But after that shoe purchase, and the conversation with the cobbler, Fred went on to help lead a charge against this perception. He co-founded a shoe company with one mission in mind: to make shoes in Ghana that would be better than the foreign ones he had purchased.
“It was unorthodox, and unusual, but we decided to make shoes. We wanted to show Africa that we were just as capable as entrepreneurs anywhere, of making high end products right here at home.” The name of the company, “Heel The World” (rather than “Heel Africa”), was the signifier that Fred and his partner were looking to make an impact not just on Africa, but on the world. “Heel the World is more than a shoe company – it is a social enterprise that counters perceptions of the quality and capabilities of Ghanaian craftsmanship.”
Read more about Fred and Heel the World on our profiles page.