By Folake Soetan
VENTURES AFRICA – This past weekend, the United Kingdom celebrated the Diamond Jubilee reign (60 years on the throne) of Queen Elizabeth, with much pomp and fanfare (and a 4-day weekend!). As the most prominent figurehead of a country where millions of African women reside, it is only right that we pay our respects. That being said, one African woman entrepreneur making waves in the U.K. is Mavis Amankwah, award-winning marketing/public relations expert and Managing Director of Rich Visions. While Mavis may not be on the royal throne, her life and achievements as an entrepreneur in the last 10 years are certainly worth celebrating.
This Ghanaian descendant, born and raised in London, has not always been in the marketing and PR world. She studied and trained as an IT technician and worked for corporate companies for over six years. She soon realised that she did not enjoy fixing computers and rather than continue as an employee, she wanted to own her own business. She then took a step common to successful entrepreneurs and began branching out into new territory while maintaining her full-time position. She successfully ran and organised several community events including the Miss Ghana UK pageants (which in 2004 produced a contestant for Miss World!). As her exposure to the world of marketing and PR increased, her vision for her new business developed. Mavis noticed a gap in the market as corporate organisations needed to reach the UK’s large ethnic and multicultural audience but did not know how. Language, religion and culture stood as the major barriers preventing access to this population. In 2002, Rich Visions, a communications, marketing and PR agency targeting diverse and hard-to-reach audiences was born.
Since Rich Visions began, the company has found its niche having worked with several large public and private institutions in the UK, from the NHS (National Health Service) to HSBC Bank, Moneygram, Metropolitan Police and Comic Relief. Her diverse portfolio as an Equality and Diversity (E&D) Consultant reflects the cultural diversity of her upbringing in London; a perfect combination for prejudice. As a young black African female growing up in Britain in the 70s, Mavis endured constant bullying. She was spat on and teased for the colour of her skin and ironically told by a teacher that she would never amount to anything. She says, “those words lingered in my head for years”. Having been hardened by several horrific incidents in her childhood, Mavis committed herself to achieving her goals and making an impact in her community.
In 2009, ever the entrepreneur, Mavis noticed that small businesses, sole traders, charities and social enterprises in the ethnic communities were not consistently promoting their businesses and brands, thus losing out on potential profits. In response she launched a dedicated arm, Rich Visions Small Business, which has helped more than 250 enterprises to expand via marketing, PR and business development. She has also started other enterprises such as Colours Media (an ethnic advertising agency), Black TV Guide, Diva Visions (a website for women of colour) and Promote my Biz (PR membership club). Her innovativeness and commitment to excellent business saw Mavis and her entire team at Rich Visions through the difficult economic crises without a single redundancy! A great achievement if there ever was one.
In the past year alone, Mavis and her team of 10 employees (small business helping other small businesses? Very impressive!) acquired more than £2 million in business accounts. She is a full member of the Chartered Institute of PR (CIPR) and has been described in the PR Powerbook as one of ‘The most influential people in PR’ for the last 4 consecutive years. Her other awards include winner, ‘Outstanding achievement in business’ 2008 Black Business Awards – Innovation, and winner of the Innovation 2007 GABBY Awards – Media.
Mavis isn’t all business though; she is also a sought-after motivational speaker who has shared the stage with a diverse group of speakers including politicians, entrepreneurs and business gurus like Richard Branson and even a former winner of the business show, The Apprentice. In addition to her roles as entrepreneur, managing director, motivational speaker, mother and all-round Wonderwoman, Mavis added the title ‘author’. In 2011, she published her first business book “44 Ways to Grow Your Business or Brand”, reviewed by author, Robert Craven as “good, honest common sense. No wool pulled over your eyes. No ‘… and 12 months later I was a millionaire’”. The book serves as a guide to small businesses on how to successfully manage all aspects of their marketing efforts.
Mavis Amankwah and Rich Visions still reside in her native East London (in Stratford – home of London 2012 Olympics!), the area of her first and wholly negative experiences with cultural diversity and discrimination. Today however, they are setting a different tone about cultural diversity, promoting the diverse populations of East London and other parts of the country as viable markets to be targeted for goods and services. For Mavis, Rich Visions cannot speak about ethnic communities if they do not remain connected to them and we agree. So a royal salute goes out to Mavis Amankwah, PR Queen Expert. May the success and reach of Rich Visions be of Olympic proportions.