Young woman turns used and disposed-off tyres into furniture

Charlotte at her work in her furniture workshop

Charlotte Ofobiri used to make beads and fashion accessories. In 2017, Charlotte used up all of her savings to buy materials to make more of her products for a trade show. During that time, thieves broke into her shop and made away with all of her products.

The 31-year-old single mother of one had just given birth then, and was devasted as her business and source of income collapsed.

’For a while, I was lost and really struggled to find an income stream to feed myself and my baby. One day, I was walking past one of the vulcanising shops when I noticed the car tyres lying around. It had rained and so there were mosquitoes resting on the tyre. I asked the guys around what they did with the tyres and he said, “nothing,” and that people usually come for them to burn. It was then that an idea came to me.’

Three years later, Charlotte, is now the owner of Byhezz Ventures. Residing in the Konongo community in the Ashanti region of Ghana, Charlotte is one of the few women in the region who practises innovative recycling and re-use of waste materials.

She makes beautifully, hand-crafted furniture out of car tyres.

’I did a lot of research online and was always on the internet watching videos on how others were making good things out of tyres. I have always had a knack for crafts making and after senior high at Osu Presec in Accra where I studied Clothing and Textiles in 2009, I decided to start my own business;  which is how I ended up making beads and ultimately, furniture from tyres.’

Charlotte Ofobiri standing in front of her workshop located in her community

Charlotte Ofobiri, young entrepreneur and furniture maker

Charlotte showing off some of her completed furniture

Charlotte showcasing some of her completed products

In 2020, Charlotte learnt  about the GrEEn Project from a friend and decided to apply for one of its entrepreneurs’ programme training.

’SNV taught me how to price my products, how to maintain customers, identify my key customers, and create a good business plan. I have always had skills but lacked business management and sustainability (know-how), as well as a mentor to guide me. SNV, through GrEEn, provided these to me.’

Funded by the European Union through its Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa, the Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana (GrEEn) Project’s Incubation Programme provides six-month business support to green entrepreneurs.

Currently, Charlotte has been selected as one of the successful applicants of the GrEEn Incubation Programme, and has been receiving business advisory support and training from Women’s Haven Africa in the Ashanti region

’The raw materials for Charlotte’s business are everywhere. You can go around any community and pick 20 tyres. This means she will not have any issues accessing these raw materials,’ says Adwoa Fosu Owusu Ofori, Founder and CEO of Women’s Haven Africa.

Throughout the training, Charlotte has been responsive and has been assigned a mentor to help her with her business module. To help her market her business, we’re also creating a website for her and have also had some radio interviews to increase her visibility. She’s into upcycling and with her kind of business, she needs the right partners. Even if she wants to export, she needs the right partners to work with. So, we are supporting her to identify key partners and establish a proper relationship with them. Under the GrEEn Incubation Programme, she has been given a mentor to help her understand her business needs and to also build her business model canvas and business strategy to enhance her operations and focus on her target market.’

Today, Charlotte is a strong advocate of upcycling and promoting the growth of the circular economy at the local level.

’I believe that there is nothing like waste. Most times, people doubt that I made these furniture from car tyres. I am always eager to show my creations to these people and leave them in wonder. Other times too, people doubt that a woman made it, which I am always proud to prove that yes, a woman made these out of car tyres. I have become a role model for some of the women who have shown interest in learning what I do. They are proud that I am doing something that is so different from what society expects from women. It feels great to put value to something that people regard as waste and even better to make money from it.’

Photos: (banner) Charlotte at work in her furniture workshop. All photos by SNV/Deborah Lomotey

Editor's note

The Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana (GrEEn) project is a four-year action from the European Union, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). The project aims at creating greater economic and employment opportunities for youth, women and returning migrants by promoting and supporting sustainable, green businesses in two selected regions in Ghana: Ashanti and Western.

GrEEn is implemented under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa with a total contribution of € 20,600,000.