This HBCU graduate left the US to build a successful clothing factory in Ghana

Abu Mubarik January 07, 2023

Kwabs Asamoah and his family left Ghana for the US when he was only nine years old. He got to America at a time when many thought Africans were savages and primitive in their way of thinking. As a result, he he had a difficult time fitting in.

“I had a tough upbringing. It was challenging. The only equal I had was education,” he told Face2Face Africa in a recent interview for “The Returnee Project.” According to Asamoah, what even compounded his integration was the fact that he didn’t speak a word of English.

Despite his challenging years in the US, his parents never compromised on education. They gave him two options: “sink or swim.” And according to him, the admonishing gave him some level of fortitude in his adult life and business career.

An HBCU graduate with a degree in physics and engineering, Asamoah would later find passion for fashion and abandon engineering. Although he developed an interest in fashion as a STEM student, he had no formal training in his newfound love.

Nonetheless, college taught him the principle of educating himself in any subject matter. “When I was going to college, I wasn’t an engineer, he said. “It was after college that I became an engineer.”

“I could take that to fashion because I knew how to learn,” he added. “And if I could apply those same principles I learned in engineering, I could also be successful in fashion.”

As he got into the fashion industry, he soon realized that there were few people that looked like him. He had great ambition to open a giant factory. However, it started with a small factory shop called Kustom Looks Clothier “that was doing so well,” according to Asamoah.

“It was my long-time expansion and projection. I felt that having a factory was a better set-up for me. There weren’t too many successful labels in America that I knew of were 10, 15 and 20 years in the game,” he said.

Powerful black-owned brands like Cross Colours and Fubu ‘had come and gone’ when Asamoah started Kustoms Looks. He, therefore, entered the fashion industry with a plan to remain permanently. And the only thing he saw as a permanent structure to remain relevant was to have a manufacturing wing.

Asamoah returned to Ghana, a country he left when he was only nine years old, to start his fashion business.

“The labels will come and go but the manufacturer was pretty solid. So that became my logic and I could not set up a manufacturing operation in the United State.

“So whenever I came to Ghana, I would always see hundreds of tailors all over the place. I knew we could sew her but it was the ability to put them in a factory environment that I thought I could bring and that is what we want to work on,” Asamoah said.

Since returning home and establishing his business, Asamoah says he has encountered a lot of challenges, chief amongst them being cultural differences. He came from an environment where credit determines his value and wealth and ability to accomplish things. However, in Ghana, he had to adjust to ‘dealing with a cash society.’

Another challenge for him is the work culture, salary structure, communication, human resources and work ethics and marching with success. 

In America, Asamoah said he made $100,000 a year and had two houses and five cars but he didn’t have time. Despite his challenges, one thing he has come to appreciate about working in Ghana is flexibility and time. Chech out Asamoah’s full interview below:

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: January 6, 2023


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