Meet one of Maakola’s newest tailors, Martha.
Martha Mensah owns and runs her own atelier in Ghana. She makes quality fashion for women both for the local market and now, around the world. Martha is married with three children and has been working in the fashion industry for almost a decade.
Her goal is to address the issue of standardized sizing. She believes a common mistake women make when buying clothes is purchasing ready-made pieces. The main issue with buying ready-made clothing from shops in Africa is the sizing. Martha doesn’t believe that ready-made sizing is cut to fit African figures, as they follow European size charts.
“We should come up with a size chart for the African body. Not all sizes fit. A UK size 8 might not fit an African size 8. I would love to be able to make a standardized size chart that accommodates the African body.” - Martha Mensah
“Growing up in Ashaiman in Ghana can be very challenging, so we put ourselves out there for the local girls to show them that they can achieve their dreams. I wanted to run programs and inspire other girls and women who have grown up in challenging areas to achieve their dreams.” - Martha Mensah
The entrepreneurial journey: running a business and raising a family
Over the last decade, Martha has seen her business, and her family, grow from strength to strength. While raising three children with her husband, news of Martha’s fashion business spread, and soon her customer base started to grow. With her unique style and fast-turnaround service, Martha’s customers soon began to flood the bedroom that she worked from.
“For like three years I was working from the bedroom, then I realized a lot of people were coming into my bedroom, to me to repair their dresses. So, I looked for some funds, and I moved into a storeroom. Then in no time, the storeroom became too small for me! So I invested in a more permanent structure where I currently run the business.” Martha loves creating pieces for her customers and seeing how much they love her designs. “The fact that I see women wearing my clothes, and they are proud that I made them makes me really love what I do.” One of the parts of her job that Martha enjoys the most is helping her customers tell their stories through her clothing. When a woman comes into her store needing a piece for a specific reason, Martha loves working with her to make sure she gets exactly what she wants and needs.
“Sleep didn’t come to me easily, because there were so many things on my mind that I wanted to do in a very short time. I would wake up at 2 am and feel like sewing because I had seen some seniors creating something at school that I wanted to learn to do. So I just kept practicing and practicing.” - Martha Mensah
Work hard and persevere
Although Martha now runs her successful fashion business, fashion was not her first vocation. At university, Martha studied economics and sociology and would work with people in the rural communities of her homeland of Ashaiman. Using the lessons she learned in university, Martha worked with friends to help the local girls develop skills. They ran programs teaching lessons and key skills, with the hope of teaching them that even if you grow up in a challenging area, you can still achieve your dreams.
After university, Martha took a job in a shopping mall. Although she loved clothes, she struggled to find pieces that truly spoke to her – so she thought, why not make my own? In between her shifts, she applied for local apprenticeships so she could learn the skills needed to become a tailor and designer, and she started to design and make her own fashion pieces.
Building a team and making a difference
As Martha’s business began to gain popularity and grow, she realized that she needed assistance. Martha now has 3 full-time assistants working for her, “My team consists of me and three precious girls who hold my team. They hold my peace. Providing tailoring skills to my team is really fulfilling. I think it is part of the dream I have to see others becoming better [in their craft], especially women.”
Dera – one of Martha’s team – credits Martha for inspiring her to work in the fashion industry, saying that she is someone she has admired all of her life. “The moment you come into contact with her irrespective of your mood you just pick up your mood because of the way she is. I look forward to coming into work (most) of the time! She makes work fun. She engages you and makes you understand and works to get the best out of you.”