The Cultural Group and The Graphic Store
Naomi Fletcher is a London based serial entrepreneur who currently helms The Cultural Group and The Graphic Store.
The Cultural Group is the umbrella name for a group of companies designed to educate, inspire and uplift individuals through the development of cultural initiatives.
The first company, the Ghanaian Language School, launched in 2009 and employs a team of five. The school was created to help people who embrace Ghanaian culture and want to further enhance their knowledge by learning the language.
Naomi is also the founder of The Graphic Store, an agency that provides customised design solutions for new and growing businesses. The company’s expert services include the creation of websites; branding; logos; business stationery and marketing materials.
Established in 2000, The Graphic Store employs a team of two based in London.
Why did you decide to start each of your companies?
The Graphic Store was conceived as soon as I stepped out into the world fresh from university. I had studied a degree in design and marketing and was constantly being asked by friends and family with businesses to design business cards and leaflets among other things.
So, I just went with it. And here we are over 10 years later!
The story for The Cultural Group is slightly different. I was born here in UK. My father is Ghanaian and my mother is Jamaican. I have always felt the need to learn my native tongue, and despite begging family members to teach me I never learnt. I then tried to look for courses, but to no avail.
My husband, who is now also my business partner, had a similar issue. Both his parents are Ghanaian and although he could understand the language, he didn’t have the confidence to speak to others. We also knew of a lot people that had that had Ghanaian partners or travelled to Ghana on a regular basis. There just didn’t seem to be anywhere for them to learn the language at a reasonable price.
Together, we decided that we would do something about it. We had a chance meeting with Georgina Tweneboah-Sah, who is now our head tutor. She had already written books and produced DVDs in the language. Georgina also and acts as an interpreter for various organisations. Soon enough, we started to make concrete plans to form what is now The Cultural Group.
What was your career path prior to starting your first business?
I started off working in a small publishing firm, Beach Magazines and Publishing, in South Kensington as an office assistant. Working in this environment was very good exposure to how a small business should be run.
I then went on the work for larger media houses, Bauer and then IPC across magazines, events and websites. These positions gave me the experience of seeing how larger companies are run and it was there that I developed my knowledge and experience in marketing and promotions.
Did you always know that you would become a serial entrepreneur?
I always knew that I wanted to work for myself eventually, and I had a lot of ideas! So I guess the answer to that question is yes.
Tell me more about the services you provide at The Graphic Store and what’s been your favourite project to date?
At The Graphic Store we work with a varied clientele on branding, logos, business stationery, marketing materials and websites. I can’t really say I have a favourite project because all of them have been so different. However, I do love projects that allow me to work across a number of different mediums because this really allows me to make an impact for my clients.
Can you tell me more about the courses you provide at The Cultural Group?
At the Ghanaian Language School we teach Twi, Fante and Ga, three of the most commonly spoken languages in Ghana. We run 10 week courses in South, East and North London on evenings and weekends.
Our students are second generation Ghanaians, individuals with Ghanaian friends or partners, or individuals with an interest in Ghana for work or business purposes. We even have groups who have traced their roots back to Ghana.
What are you working on at the moment and can you describe your typical working day?
At the moment for The Cultural Group I am working on registering students for next set of courses and organising the next monthly student meet up. I am also uploading new images into our new online language-learning system ‘The Talking Drum’.
At The Graphic Store I have a number of client jobs on the go, and I’m heavily promoting my new price packages and special spring and summer offers for start ups and growing businesses.
A typical day for me is getting up at 6.30am, and taking some time to give God thanks for all that he has done. I then get the boys up ready to go to my mum’s. I arrive back at home by 9am and my working day begins.
I deal with my emails, and then any design work for The Graphic Store. In the afternoon I respond to queries and take care of admin for the cultural group.
I clock off at 4.30pm to get the boys unless I need to attend classes in which case I’ll end up clocking off about 10pm.
What have been the highlights of running your own businesses?
For The Graphic Store it has to be seeing how happy clients are with each project. For The Cultural Group, the enthusiasm and support of all our students keeps us going. Also getting to meet Ghanaian celebrities and footballers isn’t bad either!
What is the hardest part of running your own businesses?
The hardest part of running my own business is dealing with numbers. I hate maths with a passion, so I used to try and avoid it, something you can’t do when you run your own business. I’ve now found a way of masking the fear by just getting on with it and not procrastinating.
Can you share any tips on maintaining a work/life balance while running multiple businesses?
First of all accept help. The hardest thing is realising that you cannot possibly do it all yourself, no matter how hard you try. Once you’ve realised that you have the winning formula. Think about people around you that can help; you’ll be surprised at how many people come forward.
Secondly, take some time out. It’s not healthy to work continuously; you need to take time out to enjoy special moments with those you love. Even if it’s just a 20 minute walk in the park, a quick painting session or an hour lunch at a local restaurant. Enjoy life a little, and you’ll come back refreshed motivated most likely, more productive.
What has been your proudest business moment so far?
My proudest moment was when my mum joined the course. My mother has always been so supportive of my goals and to have her learning on my course was such a privilege.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
My dad is my biggest inspiration. He arrived in the UK with nothing and managed to bring up, make a home for, feed, educate and inspire 2 successful daughters into their dream careers.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting multiple businesses?
I would probably say start one thing at a time. You cannot possibly do it all at once unless you have lots of money behind you. Think about what you need to do right now.
Do you have to start one of your projects now to generate money and time to do the other? Then do that first. You can only excel if you focus, so focus on one at a time, and the opportunity will open up for you to do more.
Fast forward five years, where do you think your businesses will be in 2016?
In 2016, I see The Cultural Group running classes in a huge number of languages and locations. I also see cultural events and publishing on the horizon. Lastly, a bigger team and lots of awards under our belt!
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Naomi Fletcher was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.