Growth with a Smile
With a smile so big, there is no mistaking that Fofana Sadiki is a happy man. A career carpenter, Fofana is the owner of Soulemane Silla Woodshop on Broad Street in Gbarnga, Liberia’s second-largest city and the Capital City of Bong County in the center of the country.
On the day of my visit, Soulemane Silla is the busiest that it has ever been. Fofana’s shop recently won a contract with PCI Liberia, an international NGO, for the production of 750 desktop chairs for a new school, an opportunity Fofana said came to him through the Building Markets’ Tender Distribution Service. The chairs are nearing completion, and PCI has again awarded him an extension to produce 1500 more chairs.
I had travelled to Gbarnga, Bong County to meet with Fofana and see how this contract had impacted his business. Fofana could not hold back his joy to speak in a formal interview. I had a list of questions, but as I positioned my camcorder he was already joyfully narrating how his success is attributed to the work of Building Markets.
Fofana started his wood shop six years ago but was only in the business of producing household furniture on a smaller scale. He had little or no idea of bidding for big contracts that could possibly improve his production skills and add value to the operation of his workshop. He also had no means of getting information on tender opportunities. Fofana felt like he was living in the middle of nowhere, just hoping for the better when the Building Markets Verification Team approached him to have his business profile and contact information placed on the Building Markets business directory.
Fofana did not, at first, trust Building Markets after the verification saying: “When the people from Building Markets got here, I had no interest because I never understood their services but when I started receiving text messages and making up my mind to try, I started to realize that it was an eye opener.”
I could see the joy in his face as he went off-camera, running from one corner to the other to show me the current status of all his contracts, manpower capacity and machines. “I had thirty persons working in this wood shop but with the current contract I have just employed 15 more persons to deliver the goods on time for the satisfaction of my contractor,” Fofana said.
Young men in their twenties were busy operating various machines with speed to meet the deadline. They welcomed me with smiles, others rushing for a hand-shake and thanking Building Markets for the opportunity to work.
“[Before] I was only producing beds, dressers and tables for the community. People hardly buy these things because production is costly and the finished product is expensive,” Fofana says. “But as you can see I am now producing 1500 armed chairs. This is a life changing situation.”
Fofana’s facial expression told it all: “This workshop could not hold all of the production so I have an extension in the east of Gbarnga where I store the rest of the finished products. Before I could turn, Fofana was on a motorbike ready to take me to the other workshop. As we arrived, people were busy assembling dozens of chairs.
The Soulemane Silla Carpenter Workshop also has the technical capacity. All planks undergo a ribbing procedure in the mechanized production line, thus producing a chair in 45 minutes. In the future, Fofana hopes to extend his production center to other parts of Liberia and hopes Building Markets can help him make his work known to potential buyers in new regions of Liberia.
Take a visit to Fofana’s workshop: