The adage about making lemons into lemonade suffers the dubious notoriety of being a cliche, but fewer words would better describe the grit and dogged determination of Joseph Yaw Frimpong.
In 2017, Frimpong was looking for a platform to publish the electronic version of his first book “The Quietist”. The platform options available to him at the time were inaccessible to many of his countrymen in Ghana. Unable to find one, he decided to create an app purposely to publish his book.
This led to the co-founding of ReaderApp. Frimpong successfully published his book electronically, but seeing that he had surmounted a common challenge for many writers, he decided to open it up to other publishers, in particular those from Africa.
The app allows writers to publish their books to its vast ebooks store, buy ebooks from the comfort of their homes, read books on the app and, offers a money-making avenue for writers.
According to Frimpong, he was inspired to publish his book electronically by Steve Jobs, who he says pioneered the concept of e-books. Starting ReadApp was the easy part, says Frimpong, but admits that the task of maintaining and growing the platform was the most daunting.
Frimpong’s narrative highlights an all-too-familiar hurdle that many black founders have to overcome to maintain and expand their business operations. Data from Harvard shows that less than two percent (2%) of black business owners get venture funding and the situation is even direr for black female founders.
As a tech startup founder, having inadequate capital to take off was a major Achilles heel, which is further compounded by the low acceptance of e-books within the African literature market in particular. “Some people feel e-books should be free, the purchase of e-books is yet to cement well with Ghanaians. I think we will get there. It is a slow process though,” he told Face2Face Africa.
Below is our full interview with Joseph Yaw Frimpong.
QUESTION: Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
JYF: My name is Joseph Yaw Frimpong, I am a co-founder of ReaderApp. By training I am a demographer, I choose to believe that I have expertise in market research.
QUESTION: Tell us all about ReaderApp
JYF: ReaderApp is an app for publishing, buying and reading e-Books. It is for authors to publish their books and also for people to find these published books to buy and read.
QUESTION: What gave you the idea for the start-up?
JYF: The idea or should I say the inspiration came from a personal situation I found myself in. In 2017, I wanted to publish a book electronically and I was looking around for a platform where I could launch the book. The options I got were inaccessible for Ghanaians so I decided I will create an app to purposely publish the book. During the phase of development, we decided to open it up so that whoever wants to publish his book on ReaderApp can do so.
QUESTION: What drives that inspiration?
JYF: I will say, my biggest inspiration is Steve Jobs. The fact that he was one who pioneered the concept of e-books. He is also a perfectionist and does well in whatever he does.
QUESTION: How difficult was it to start?
JYF: I will say starting is the easiest part. Maintaining it and growing it is the most difficult.
QUESTION: What are some of the challenges you are facing?
JYF: This is more of a social studies question. Haha, we all know the challenges facing small-scale businesses in Ghana. Inadequate capital is one. The major biggest hurdle for us is the acceptance of e-books. Some people feel e-books should be free, the purchase of eBooks is yet to cement well with Ghanaians. I think we will get there. It is a slow process.
QUESTION: How do you market your business?
JYF: We use authors who have published on the app to market the app. It is a chicken and egg situation; you need an egg before you can get a chicken…or whatever position you believe in.
QUESTION: Do you have any employees? What does someone have to do to work with you?
JYF We do not have any employees as of now but we encourage internship opportunities. They can just send me an email via firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will respond to them.
QUESTION: How does entrepreneurship compare to a regular job?
JYF: Entrepreneurship is hard, I wonder why it is glamorized in movies and on social media. Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur. If you have to do a 9 to 5 job, please do it.
QUESTION: What can the government do to help young entrepreneurs?
JYF: I believe that the government must outsource activities that help young entrepreneurs to a PRIVATE venture capitalist who can identify talents and train them and maybe link them to sources of funds.
QUESTION: Any advice to other entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs?
JYF: The job gets harder but you must get tougher.