Life & Businessproducts

Life & Business: Nana Osei of Bôhten Eyeglasses

by Sabrina Smelko

I first discovered Bôhten when I saw them on Dragon’s Den (the original Canadian version of Shark Tank). Although he didn’t get an investment, founder Nana Osei’s business pitch, brand story and model resonated with me and countless others and a year later, CBC caught up with Nana in a Dragon’s Den update.

Bôhten’s journey started in the mountainous region of Kwahu, Ghana. Inspired by his Ghanaian roots, his love of nature, but mostly by his late grandfather Andrew Hanson Osei — Ghana’s first land surveyor in the 60s — Nana launched his eco-luxury eyewear line made from reclaimed wood sourced in West Africa. Not only are his eyeglasses socially and environmentally conscious (being handcrafted in a zero-waste facility), but the design and function is top of mind. Today Nana is joining us to share his unique business story! Sabrina

Photography by Fitzroy Facey Photography and J. Morren

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I started my own business because I never really saw myself working for somebody. I also think there’s more power in collaboration when it comes to innovation and design. I do want to give back to my people in Africa by creating fair-paying jobs and business opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs worldwide.

When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?

When I first started, my main idea for my business was to create a fashionable product, yet sustainable. I’ve always loved sunglasses and I thought to myself: Why not create my own brand that represents my sense of style, but that also conveys my values (which include being a part of the solution with regards to waste management)?

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

When I first started out, I understood very quickly that the “why” is more important than the “how.” My mentors Andy Moffat and Sandy MacPerson would always emphasize why it is so important to create a strong brand mission and stick with it through thick and thin.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

The most difficult part of starting my business was being able to find the right team to work with. It was also very challenging to start a business with no real financial investment.


Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in a running a business is that you have to know your priorities, understand your target market and know how to communicate your product to them.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?

The biggest shortcoming was investing lots of time into fundraising, whereas we should’ve been focusing on building the business. Very often, you get the notion that to get to the next level, all you need is funding, but there’s a lot of growth and success in building an organic brand.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

The biggest sacrifice I made in starting my business was my time. I put a lot of hours into my business but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because time is money.


Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

My greatest success in my business experiences has always been all the positive feedback I receive from our customers and fans. Success to my brand is when the customers are satisfied with their purchases.

What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

I would recommend Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and networking. Networking is one of the most effective ways to meet and connect with other business professionals and eventually create relationships that will influence and benefit your startup. Go out there and meet people!

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. The commitment you have to make to your business.
2. Finding the right people to realize your vision.
3. Accept that starting a business is not easy, there will be many highs and lows.

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  • It’s wonderful to read about designers / business owners from outside the US, especially those doing work in Africa. Lately I’ve been obsessed with CNN’s African Voices and seeing all of the creativity and ingenuity coming from the continent. It’s great to hear this perspective on Design*Sponge, thank you for this post Sabrina.