AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AMEYAW DEBRAH
Msm: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? family, educational background?
AMEYAW: So, I grew up pretty much in Accra. I was born in Accra to a family of four children. I am the second born. I went to Englebert International School for Primary to JHS and then I went to Senior Secondary School at Adisadel College. From Adisadel College, I then went to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where I studied, B.A Publishing Studies at the Book Industry Department. So, in a nut shell, in terms of education at Adisadel, I was a General Science student and when I went to the University I switched to do Arts.
Growing up was fun, I mean the household I grew up in was interesting, our parents allowed us to play and learn. For a very long time, it was just me and my older brother because our parents travelled out of the country for a bit so, for a very long time; it was just us until they came back. When they were away, we were living with our grandparents in (Koko – crosscheck the name of the town) so, when they came back, we moved back to Accra and then soon or later we had two more people after us. My father was a kind that always wanted us to be serious with our books and so, he provided every opportunity for us to excel academically and at home too, they allowed us to explore, we played football like everybody else, we did all the games with the people in the neighbourhood but the minute it was time for studies, they wanted us to study.
I mean, growing up, I thought I would be different things at different stages. I remember when I was living with my grandparents, I would kill a frog and bisect it, and they would be happy and say that, that is a feature of a Doctor. And when I went to the Secondary School; that was when I joined the writers’ and Debaters Club. I was exceling in English, I was exceling in writing. I won few prizes for that and so, when I finished Adisadel and the opportunity came for me to do or go to the University a year ahead of my time, I was just like, “hey, let me give it a go and see” and so, when I picked up the course, the various options they had, I was like let me try Publishing Studies and I tried, I applied and they accepted me. So, I just went in and did that and in terms of influences for my job, I have always loved entertainment. I consumed entertainment from Ghana from the U.S, U.K everywhere because I was really exposed to television content globally. I knew if I was to create content, it would be in that direction so, I am not so surprised that I am doing what I am doing but a lot of the career path was shaped when in Tech, in KNUST, I won the Best Publishing Student Award and it was sponsored by Ovation Magazine and so, I had the opportunity to do my National Service with the Magazine and that pretty much led to what I am doing now.
MSM: ameyawdebrah.com, how did it all begin?
AMEYAW: I think it’ll be a continuation from where i previously ended , winning that prize and doing my National Service at Ovation was when I started writing. And the good thing is, when I started writing, the editors liked it and so, they encouraged me, they would publish my content. I would transcribe interviews that they had done and turn it into articles, into stories and so, I started doing that and after my National Service, I stayed with Ovation a little bit but I started growing a lot of audience on social media. Back then, we had Hi5 before Facebook and all of that and so, I would put a lot of my daily activities, interactions, meeting celebrities, interviews on this platform and people were following and liking it. Eventually, I left Ovation and started contributing to some online platforms like Modern Ghana, Orange Entertainment because of the background I had created at Ovation, the network, and so, I was falling on that to now also create content on other platforms. I created my first blog on BlogSpot for fun but then, I joined a project called Voices of Africa and what they did was to give me a mobile phone with which I was able to create video contents, shoot, edit and upload onto a server.
I was creating entertainment content but also general news because it was a news portal. So, if anything was happening from environment to politics to whatever, I was able to create content around it. I had the opportunity to go to South Africa to talk about the project when it was about to end . At the Highway Africa Conference Summit in Grahams Town, South Africa, I was exposed to the concept of blogging because I had front row seat to hear the stories of different people who had used blogging to impact their communities.
When I came back to Ghana, I was like, let me do something of my own like that. I now took the BlogSpot that I had a little bit more serious and was now more consistent. Around the same time too, Ghanaweb saw my work on African News through the project I was doing and invited me to become a content editor. They set up for me, so that, I am able to update content on the website from entertainment to all the lifestyle components et cetera from the back-end, so, that started. AmeyawDebrah.com came about in 2008 when also I was contributing to Ghanacelebrities.com every now and then. The owner once was like, why don’t I create your own website for you and we jokingly said, let’s do, AmeyawDebrah.com. Once that portal was bought, it was ready to create content, I never stopped, I plugged it into all my social media and my growth became exponential, the bars was going on and so, that’s pretty much how the journey into the media space really started, at least, in my own way.
MSM: What would you say motivates you?
AMEYAW: I think, I am motivated by life, by things I see, people I meet, people in my environment, they motivate me. I also motivate myself because I have found myself in a space where people look up to me and so, I have to find some motivation within myself to keep doing what I am doing so that, it inspires people, it informs others and so, yeah, these are some of the ways I get motivated.
MSM: What are some of the greatest failures and how you dealt with petty falls and setbacks?
AMEYAW: One of the big challenges was when AmeyawDebrah.com was picking up and owner of Ghanaweb saw it as a conflict of interest, really and they gave me the ultimatum to either leave Ghanaweb or I stay and they buy me into Ghanaweb. I ultimately decided to leave, I mean, I would like to state that the AmeyawDebrah.com brand was growing but it wasn’t really making money and so, I had to forego that salary job to give it all my efforts and few weeks into that, issues started coming in. The only way I was making money was through Google Adverts… I had an infringement on the policy so, they took me off the program and so, it meant I was not making money. I quickly had to look for alternative ways of making that happen. So, I started taking tokens for works, I created a rate card showing what I can offer, what I am offering and meeting people in-between so that, they get their works and then I also get some money back from what we are doing. These were some of the early challenges and thankfully, we were able to along the line, sort of recover and stay on track and do new things. Yes, so, these were some of the setbacks and failures, I would also add, more recently, when we introduced AmeyawTV, my idea was that, Youtube is growing, everybody is there, and people are making money so, I can also do it, and then I go in and it hasn’t been working for me but I didn’t give up. I consistently created video contents and found other ways of monetizing and growing day-in and day-out. And so, these have been some of the setbacks.
MSM: What are some of your greatest regrets? If given the chance, how would you do things differently?
AMEYAW: I don’t have that many regrets, if I am to do things, I’d probably do it again with better knowledge of how to do things. Regrets; may be my regret would be not starting early to look at it as a business but I think at a fair time I was able to consider it as a business and then it took off. Also, the environment wasn’t ready so much for what I was doing, it had to take time, go through those growing pains before it took off. I understand that we had to go through that but I really have no regrets. If, I have to do it all over again, I’d do it again but perhaps with hindsight of knowledge, knowledge of the space, I would perhaps treat things a little bit more… I mean, one of the things I had to change was to add the lifestyle components to entertainment because that’s when the business module of how I was working would really make sense because we don’t do scandalous things that would attract traffic and make money. Ours is to be able to give value to our audience and the people we promote, we do business with. That has been the module and changing to incorporate lifestyle allowed me to now work with brands to make some money to carry the business that we are doing.
MSM: What have been some of your greatest accomplishments?
AMEYAW: Well, I think my accomplishments would be staying all this while, over fifteen (15) years of AmeyawDebrah.com, five (5) years for AmeyawTV, I think not everybody is able to do that. I am happy about that, I feel accomplished when people have so many good things to say about me, when people are in my “DM” (Direct Message) asking for suggestions, recommendations and tips on how they too can do something in the space that I find myself. I feel fulfilled by these things, being able to employ young Ghanaians, let them find some job doing, I think, it’s also one of my accomplishments because it’s not easy starting anything in Ghana and being able to do that for, at least, over five (5) years. It’s something that I also see as an accomplishment.
MSM: What are some of the principles, philosophies and values you ascribe to work?
AMEYAW: For me, I think I believe in what I do and I want the best out of what I do. To maximise every little potential, every little opportunity that comes my way. So, these are some of the things I do. Especially, in the media space, I don’t want to be seen as spreading falsehood, I don’t want to be seen as being insincere, I don’t want to be seen as anything that is not factual and so in my line of work, I want people to see me as being credible, yeah.
MSM: In the world of digitization, how can one take advantage of digital media to enhance their productivity?
AMEYAW: Well, technology makes things easy now especially, with the use of say, social media. I keep telling people that the opportunities are endless, our audiences are borderless and so we should think along those lines. We should use social media for good and not for all the negative stuff and only for the fun things. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. Whatever it is you are doing, if you are selling tomatoes, if you’re selling dough-nuts, whatever you are, you’re able to position yourself to create your own market and even grab a share of people’s markets; then it is because you have presence on these platforms. It is not as easy as I am making it seem, yes, I know but I feel it’s making life convenient. Technology allows you to now order something from Kumasi and get it shipped to you or even across the country. Yeah, so there are a lot of opportunities there for people to take and run with it and so, I would encourage people to do that. I mean, it does enhance productivity because sometimes, things that you’d have taken a lot more time to process would work faster now.
MSM: What would be your advice especially to the youth about the effects of comfort zone and importance of entrepreneurship?
AMEYAW: Yes, I would say, I know a lot of us are looking for people to employ us and that’s why sometimes when you look at social media people are complaining about lack of employment and all of that. But, I think especially in this digital space, we’ve seen people create employment for themselves in what we call, new jobs, I guess through digitization, new media and all of that. So, my advice is that people should be encouraged by that and start something little, start something little and grow it over a period. That’s how I like to do my things, I don’t go in full on and put everything in it and expect it to work. I go in bit by bit and then grow it. So, that’s what I tell people. Find the things you are passionate about, entrepreneurship driven by passion is likely to see success. Don’t do something because you see somebody is doing it and so, you also want to do it. You must find that core thing that would differentiate you as an entrepreneur from the next person doing the same thing or similar thing. Never give up, if you try one thing and it’s not working try and then perhaps change, try something new. Listen to people’s advice but don’t let them deter you from wanting to move forward. Take advice, monitor people, have key role models in whatever you want to do, that you can either interact with or even observe from afar and see how they are doing what they are doing so that, you learn from it. These are some of the few ideas I would say.