1.Who is Sydney Scott Sam? Where were you born and raised?
Sydney Scott Sam is a brand strategist and speaker committed to growing African people and businesses through branding with his brand engagement firm, Workspace Global; and through hosting engaging conversations & coaching sessions (with OPENSPACE). I was born and raised in Accra, Ghana.
2.How long have you been in the business industry and how has it been?
I started my first business in 2011 when I was in the university. It was a stand-up comedy, spoken word poetry and live music show. The business did well in terms of its reach and attendance but was not financially sustainable. I started Workspace in 2014 and it’s been as fulfilling as it has been difficult. It has required grit, tact and resilience to overcome the unique challenges I have faced with clientele, industry politics, people management and sometimes liquidity.
3.Tell us about your company, what you specialize in and how you flourish in a country such as Ghana?
Workspace Global is a tech-oriented brand engagement firm focused on solving problems for local and international organizations operating in Africa, using mainly visual & digital communication. Workspace works with both startups and established organizations offering support in brand identity, design, print, digital marketing, web development, photography and video.
We are very particular about using technology to make our client experience and employee experience less cumbersome and enjoyable. We also run an 70% virtual working system that allows our employees to work from any location they see fit: focusing on productivity and output. Our employees are happier and more efficient this way. This has set us apart in the industry in Ghana.
4.Kindly elaborate on how you found your passion for the work you do?
Entering at age 16, college was quite an experience but my journey peaked when I identified a gap in the student entertainment space for ‘non-theatre-based’ performing arts. My roommate and I drew inspiration from Def jam comedy and set up what would be Ghana’s biggest student-based live show of its day, Moonlight Cafe. Moonlight Cafe created the platform for ‘underground’ live music performers, spoken word artists, stand-up comedians, instrumentalists and even magicians. The show begun in 2011 and grew to audiences grossing 1,200 persons per event in Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast. Moonlight Cafe was organized entirely by student volunteers across the country. My introduction to the need to create a sustainable business model as an entrepreneur birthed here as the evidence of my lack of experience in business at the time led to sustainability problems and financial losses; since Moonlight Cafe was very capital-intensive. I, however, developed the culture of bootstrapping as a startup. This led to my mastery of Graphic Design, Photography, Videography and brand identity development in 2012 as these were services I would cover for the Moonlight Cafe Brand myself in order to reduce the costs of marketing. With these skills, I then devoted my efforts to helping student entrepreneurs create richer and more appealing product/service offers by working on their branding. I enjoyed this as I saw clearly that I was making their lives better and giving them a better chance of success in the industry space. Ever since, I have been committed to growing African people and businesses using my skillset and knowledge-base.
5.What are the challenges you have faced in the business industry?
Industry politics sometimes creates unnecessary barriers for my business to reach its intended target; cases where work is given based on ‘who you know’ instead of competence. I have also sometimes had the difficulty of losing out of opportunities because certain clients do not want to work with such a ‘young’ person. Some feel it is unusual for a 26-year-old to be the final source of authority in my business. I have had many issues with receiving payment which has led to quite a range of liquify issues. I have also faced a fair share of employee loyalty problems that have in a few cases staggered my growth.
6.What makes Workspace Global different from other companies?
Workspace runs a 70% virtual service for both staff and clientele. Most meetings and transactions are held electronically. Our working system allows our staff to work from any location of their choosing as long as work is submitted in a timely fashion… The focus is on results.
We also understand the business space extensively hence tailor our service offer to suit different types of clients enriching them with complimentary business strategy consultations and flexible payment packages.
7.Name a few brands you have worked with?
- Local Startups: MAZA, Teiva Skincare, Platinum Dental, Fitrip Gym, Redwood Universal,
- Local Organisations: Nationwide Medical Insurance, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation
- International Organisations: World Bank, Unicef, UNFAO, Aker Energy
8.How are you as a boss?
I’m a careful mix of teacher, mentor and gym coach. I grant my staff a lot of room to exercise their creativity to explore varying alternatives to complete a task. I do a lot of training sessions and coaching on the overarching personal development goals of my people. I am however not very compromising on work quality and timelines; those are non-negotiable.
9.How does it feel to have made the Forbes 30 under 30 list? What was your reaction when you found out that you had made the list? What does this mean for you?
It felt unreal at first, but ultimately I felt deeply honoured and favoured by God for the years of hard work I invested into growing my business. Forbes 30 under 30 is the beginning of many platforms and springboards God will use to expedite the agenda set out for me to touch African lives and businesses. It is better positioned me to expand my work internationally for both Workspace & OPENSPACE. Countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and a few others are next on my expansion radar.
10.How will you use this achievement to your best ability?
This achievement emphasises the credibility I have worked on amassing over the years. It creates further access to influential people and organizations that I will partner with to extend my reach to accomplish my pro-africana agenda. Also with the new found media attention, I will propagate the messages from my coaching sessions to entrepreneurs across Africa to help them run better businesses, build better brands and get the best out of their careers.
11.List 5 things that you are grateful for at the moment?
- I am grateful for the grace of God and His favour upon my life.
- My family has been so monumental in my growth and journey.
- My life partner and small circle of friends I call my family.. (i.e. my emotional & psychological support system)
- My team mates and business partners
- My lessons and failures faced over my journey.. They are what make me who I am today.
12.What do you do in your spare time?
I am a talker. I often host game nights and small private events in my home to meet new people either in the local professional space or from the diaspora. This usually garners intelligent conversation which I thoroughly enjoy and helps me grow my personal network. I also enjoy lots of quiet time which I use to practice meditation, gain new knowledge, self-assess, self-care, pray or sometimes just lay around doing nothing to quieten my mind.
13.Money, status and power? Put these in order of importance and state why?
Money, Power then status. I work hard to make money that allows me to do the things that I want to do without resource limitations. I enjoy taking care of others and creating experiences/memories which money allows me to do. Power grants me the ability to influence people, systems and policy that gives me the direct opportunity to create change in society and around the world. Status involves being revered by others, which is of importance but is not the most enticing thing for me among this list.
14.What advice would you give anyone who just started a business?
We often underplay the value of research on the industry, businesses and best practices even for the little things eg. How to have effective meetings. It’s also always good to pay yourself a salary, no matter how small for the services you render to your company; also separate your business finances from your personal finances. This allows you to create a more accurate picture of how your business is doing and to resist the risk of running the company down with unrecorded support or drawings from the owner. Focus dearly on injecting good effective dedicated people into your team.
15.Five interesting facts about yourself?
- I’m a daredevil at heart. I seek out adventures; diving, racing etc.
- I love to travel. I enjoy new cultures and meeting new people.
- When I retire, I want to become a mechanic; just to work on building a few cars in my garage.
- I really really like Coldplay. And my favourite music genre is Indie Folk.
- I entered Senior High School at age 12, and entered university at age 16. 3 years earlier than the normal in Ghana.
Connect with Sydney Scott Sam:
Facebook: Sydney Scott Sam
Linkedin: Sydney Scott Sam