Adventures of Andrea Opoku Founder, GreenBean MarketingMy name is Andrea Opoku, I’m a Marketing Consultant and the founder of GreenBean Marketing whichdelivers marketing, branding and PR activities and consultancy services for small and medium sizedbusinesses.GreenBean Marketing was born in 2008 out of a frustration in my then current role and of a need for me to fallback in love with my profession again.I got into marketing via what some would describe as the traditional route: I got an entry level marketing jobstraight out of university, gained some experience and worked my way up, working in the US and France and afew big brands in the UK. The seed to set up my business was sown, strangely, after I was turned down for ajob. The process made me realize how much I loved what I was doing, and ironically that I was pretty good atit.Some years later I was in a great role in which I had gained so much experience and had travelled extensively,but I had reached as far as I was going to in that organization. I wasn’t being challenged and I was growingincreasingly frustrated with my job. A friend asked me to help her re-brand and re-launch her business. Itworked really well and I saw the effect it had on her business, most importantly I got a huge confidence boost,and wanted to do more.I had a decision to make, I could look for a more challenging role and leave the company or I could stay whereI was and ‘cruise’ while I focused on starting and growing my business. I choose the latter.Just as I had made that decision a number of life events happened within a short period that made me feel atthe time that I had lost control of my life and the direction it was going.In 2008 I was married and pregnant with my first child and my husband and I bought a house near my parentsand moved in in April. In May that year my then 36 year old brother had a stroke, my mother passed away thatsame week and my son was born two and a half weeks later. Anyone who has been through anything like thatcan relate to the feeling I had of the ground beneath my feet literally giving way and I was free falling. It was avery dark time. Only my faith in God and my newborn son were my saving grace. A year later in 2009 myfather also passed away suddenly, I was pregnant with my second baby at the time.It took me a long time to regain control of my life and in 2010 I was on maternity leave with my second sonand used the opportunity to start pushing my business again, networking and getting new clients. It was a realstruggle pushing myself mentally and emotionally, but the business community I entered was amazing, andwithout knowing my whole back-story, helped me immensely. I gave up work completely towards the end of2010.Now my role involves meeting and speaking to business owners everyday; delivering client marketing and PRcampaigns, running workshops and speaking at events; writing articles and my blog. I also manage a verysmall team of freelancers. I’m constantly looking for new opportunities and keeping abreast of developmentsin marketing, social media, technology so I can serve my clients better.I’m not one of those early risers, I work best late at night. However in the week I’m up by 6.45am to get myboys up and ready for school and nursery. We leave the house at 8.30am and if I don’t have any events ornetworking meetings I’m usually at my desk with a cup of strong coffee and a couple of slices of toast by9.30am. Much of my time at the beginning of the week is spent responding to and sending emails, and makingclient calls, checking with the team on the progress of client projects. In the middle and towards the end of theweek is when I do much of my reading/learning, writing and planning – for clients and GreenBean Marketingas well.
I stop work late afternoon to pick up my boys, spend some time with them and get them feed, bathed and readyfor bed. At around 9pm I start what I call my ‘second shift’ and on a good day I’m in bed by midnight.It is tough and the pressure to get everything done can take its toll on your body and relationships. But I’mgetting better at taking time out for myself and my family.If I could go back and change anything in my career I would have got a mentor much earlier on. Someone tokeep me focused and help me navigate the politics and game playing that takes place in companies which youdon’t think about when starting your working life.Another is I sometimes wish I had worked in a marketing consultancy/agency. The experience of having to goout to get work and pitching for business would have set me up well in my current business.It’s funny, at one point I considered doing something more practical, using my hands and helping people, likebeing a paramedic or a doctor. With that said I did work as a care assistant whilst at university and didn’t likeit at all. It takes a special kind of person to work with vulnerable and ill people.As a business owner I have that entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to start a business that doesn’t completelycentre on my profession. I’m still looking for the right opportunity…In my career and my business I’ve been my biggest obstacle to getting where I want to be! My belief in myselfand my abilities was limited. Doing something every day that makes me afraid, seeing my successes and thevalue I bring to my clients, as well as age and experience, has taught me to quieten and sometimes even silencethat little voice in my head that says I can’t do it.This is something that comes up again and again as an issue with many, if not all, women. The glass ceilingand other external factors that hold us back are there, but the biggest battle goes on inside our heads and ourhearts.The recent publication of and all the activity around Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In addresses this issue andreally resonates with me, and most women I imagine. I’m sure many women can identify at which point theyleaned in or leaned back…There is always the desire to have more clients and more profit, but I’m much happier with my life now than Iwas in employment. I’m working in a business I created that challenges me and also makes me feel valued,and I have the flexibility to spend time with my husband and play with my children. I would call thatsuccessful! Or at least on the way to success, there’s always more one wants to achieve!Women need to define success by their own standards not by what everyone else is doing and what the mediadepicts as successful.I don’t believe there is a secret to success! Seriously, its hard work and doing what works for you consistently.Keeping in contact with people, being open to new opportunities but also knowing when to step back and sayno.I surround myself with positive people who are doing well in life who will encourage and support me. I alsotry and help others as much as I can. I got to where I am because of the support and belief others had in me, soI like to pass that on.In trying to balance work/family and life I try not to take on too much now – it’s a simple as that. When I firststarted my business I wanted to be involved in and be a part of everything, just so I didn’t miss out on the‘opportunity’. Now I take on projects that sit well with me, make business and financial sense and that don’tcompromise my time with my family.My husband works hard and has long hours but on the weekends the boys are his, giving me time to catch upon work or take time out. As a family we go to Church on a Sunday and once a month or so I go out for drinks,dinner or a spa day with a group of girlfriends.At the moment I’m training for a 1.5 km (64 lengths of a pool) Swimathon for Marie Curie Cancer Care, whichis hard but is keeping me fit and focused!Women can really make a difference in the work place by: having an unshakeable belief in themselves and their abilities
Putting themselves forward for everything they have a desire to do. Leaving the insecurities and bitchiness at the door and helping and supporting other women. Knowing and understanding themselves and what they really want in life. Thinking bigger, aiming higher and not limiting themselves to what they see around them.I could go on…..Business and commerce really inspires me. I love my job and I love talking to my clients about theirbusinesses. Working with a client means being a part of their business – and I am right in there with themmaking it work.My job challenges me and gives me variety, everyday is different. Working with different people; working indifferent types of businesses in varying industries. If I had to give advice to my younger self I would say… Don’t be afraid to get it wrong and look stupid – sometimes in the effort to look like you know everything, you end up not learning anything. Get two mentors – a man and a woman, one of which should be in the same profession as you. Surround yourself with positive people who have succeeded or are on their way to succeeding in their professions or businesses. Start networking professionally as soon as possible, whilst still in university if you can.When starting a business…If you have financial capital be extremely careful how you spend it. Most businesses can start with no or verylittle money. Before you hire in or outsource a function to a company or freelancers make sure you understandwhat the job entails. Lastly, it’s been said before and it will continue to be said: network, network and networksome more. It’s yourself and the people you meet outside of your business that will help it grow.I want to leave a business that continues to promote entrepreneurism and support the small business man orwoman.I want to instill in my sons the same values that my parents instilled in me – hard work and education is key,help and respect for others, and always aim high. My mother worked full time throughout my childhood, andlike most 1st generation Ghanaians in the UK she had numerous businesses on the side. I’ve carried on thatentrepreneurial spirit and want to pass it onto my sons. The world is changing and having the ability to createyour own living will soon become the norm.I hope you have enjoyed reading my adventures and in closing here is one of my favorite quotes:“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. Itis our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Youare a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinkingso that other people wont feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. Its not just in some of us; its in everyone.And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we areliberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”Marianne WilliamsonAndrea OpokuFounder,GreenBean Marketing