All Articles Tagged "Ivory Coast business"
When Christian and Sandrine Roland first went off to college at the University of Laval in Quebec City, Canada, they never thought they’d be entrepreneurs. BBC Africa reports that their families expected them to graduate and secure jobs with large private companies. But when they partnered together on a marketing project, they both confirmed that working for others was not what they wanted to do.
“I think we were influenced by the North American way of thinking,” Sandrine said to BBC Africa. “We were taught that entrepreneurship is good… that you have to do your own thing, and create jobs and develop the economy of your country.”
Sandrine finished her degrees in marketing and communication, and Christian finished his in marketing and information technology. The Rolands, both natives of Ivory Coast, then went back to their country upon graduation where Christian immediately decided to launch his own business.
“When we finished school even our parents were surprised that he wanted to go straight into his own business. Me, I wanted to work first [as an employee] but the project of creating my own business was already there,” she said.
Christian’s father was against the idea but his mother supported him and gave him enough financial capital to help him start his first company, Assist, in 1999. His IT firm became the first Open Source provider in 2004 and currently still thrives, offering web design, internet engineering, information systems and community management. Sandrine worked for an advertising firm until 2006, when she opened up her own communication strategies agency, Intuition.
The enthusiastic entrepreneurial couple next debuted two other businesses–AOS Event Management and real estate firm XPERBAT. In 2009, their four businesses came together under one name, the AOS group, which is able to employ 30 employees on a permanent basis and up to 500 temporary staff at a time. Their companies can proudly boast that they made it without bank loans or investment fund support; while partner support was needed for one of the companies, all of the test of the capital was raised by reinvesting the money.
Although the Rolands have seen success, it wasn’t easy. In addition to the challenges most entrepreneurs face, the Rolands had the added hardship of civil war.
“We started in 1999. Just after a few months there was the first war, then in 2002 the second war, so the environment was very hard but we are still here,” Christian said to BBC Africa.
“It was really a daily miracle. And also making enough money to pay the charges because you have to pay the salaries, pay the taxes, pay everything – electricity, rent – and it was really a struggle,” Sandrine adds.
The Rolands relay that the worst challenge was the 2010 political unrest when former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down to international recognized election winner Alassane Ouattara.
“Even through that, we went through and we’re happy now that we can look forward because a few months ago we did not have any visibility, but now we can look forward and we know that it’s going to get better,” she said.
The Rolands say they owe their success to God and their creativity. And to all the aspiring entrepreneurs, “Don’t listen to people,” Christian advices. “Just make what you can do to make your dream come true.”