In the past 10 years in Ghana we’ve seen the emergence of fashion, e-commerce, music, and art. At the forefront of this emergence are various entrepreneurs who push boundaries and agendas. We call them the New Age Entrepreneurs.
We’re inspired by their work and bold career choices and we hope you will be too!
Our second New Age Entrepreneur is Dedo Azu, founder of the wonderful Tea Baa. Tea Baa is a restaurant and tea bar in Nyaniba Estates, and one of our favourite places to hang out in Accra (make sure to try their chicken wings and steak fries!).
Check out our interview with her below!
What was your dream job when you were growing up?
You know, at one point, my dream was to write novels. And then, it was to be a hairdresser. I’ve been all over the place…but my dream job has always been unconventional. I’ve had ideas of things that I wanted to do but I didn’t really have one solid dream job; otherwise I think I would be doing it right now.
When I moved to Ghana I said to myself, “everything I love to do, I’m going to try to turn it into a business and see how it goes.” Luckily, I live at home, so I don’t have to pay rent! So I’ve decided to just do the things I love and see where it goes, so that’s where all of this stemmed from.
Is Tea Baa your first passion project?
*Laughs* Ohh, no! There’ve been a looooot of things. When I first moved back to Ghana, a friend and I got into events. We decided to bring a whole bunch of Ghanaian entrepreneurs making Made in Ghana things together at Alliance Francaise. And then I started designing clothes, because that’s another thing I love to do. And then I started designing wooden sunglasses as well.
But Tea Baa happened almost by mistake. I love tea. Before the very first Sabolai Radio, Mantse, the event’s organizer, called me and asked, “do you wanna come sell sunglasses?” But I knew from experience that nobody wants to buy sunglasses or expensive things at festivals; they go to festivals to eat and drink. I had a cup of tea in my hand and I looked down at it and said “I don’t know, I could sell tea?” and he said “sure!” It was a hit beyond my wildest imagination. I was so surprised! I even had to go home to make several more gallons of tea. It was crazy! After that, I started making and selling tea at festivals and events for 2 years.
And then I realized; this is not a bad business at all! I love food, I love people, and I love tea, so why don’t I bring it all together? And now here we are, and I LOVE it! I love it more than anything I’ve ever done, I’m telling you. But it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done as well; I didn’t expect it to be this hard. It’s hard, but it’s fulfilling.
There have been many times when I felt unsure, not about the business model but more about my capability of running Tea Baa, because I don’t have any experience; I’ve never worked in a restaurant. Ever. When I was 18 years old in Canada, I worked at the pizza joint in my university for a year, so I know how to make pizzas, but that’s it.
What’s a typical day like for you?
C-H-A-O-S! How can you make chaos sound beautiful? It’s beautiful chaos. When I started, I used to worry that nobody would ever want to come back to Tea Baa. There were so many days when we messed up big time. Even today, I feel that way all the time. It’s been a big learning process, and I’m still learning. But overall, it’s been wonderful. Every time somebody comes here and says “oh I really love the place!”, then I’m like OK, we’re doing something right. OK, we got one thing right.
I start working as soon as my eyes open, which is usually around 6am or 7am. As soon as my eyes open, I say a little prayer and then I’m like ok, what do I do? The first thing I usually do is check social media; I run Tea Baa’s Instagram PROUDLY all by myself! Occasionally, my brother logs in when he has a very cool photo and he’ll post it. As soon as that’s done, I make a list of what I need to get and what I need to do, and try to find ways to make running the place smoother. And it doesn’t end until I go to sleep, which means sometimes going to sleep at 2am.
We officially open at noon, but we start prepping at 9am. We’re generally open at 9am for people that want to come and work here. So while we’re cleaning up and setting up, people just come and sit inside and they work. What I want to do in the future is to start serving breakfast at 8 or 9 in the morning. That’s something I feel would put Tea Baa on top of everything else.
How does this experience compare with your previous job experiences?
It’s definitely a lot more chaotic, both because of the nature of the business and because it’s new to me. First of all, I don’t always know exactly what I’m doing, and second of all, everybody is depending on me. It’s been difficult, but when I wake up in the morning, as hard as it gets, I wake up and I wanna come here.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
The people! I LOVE the people. I get to meet so many different cool people and that has been my favorite part of this job. I thought making tea would be my favorite, but the people have been G-R-E-A-T! My second favorite thing has been experimenting with the teas. For some of the teas that I make, God knows what I mix *laughs*.
I love the people, the teas, and learning more about how I push myself. Because I honestly didn’t think I could wake up every morning, 7 days a week thinking about Tea Baa and moving with it. It’s not easy at all, but I wake up every day and I’m excited! And then on my only day off (Tea Baa is closed on Mondays), I miss Tea Baa! It’s seriously crazy. Last Monday, I had no idea what to do with my time! *whispers* Sometimes I come here to hang out by myself on Mondays.
What do your parents and other family members think about your job? Did you face any resistance?
My parents have always been very responsive and supportive, and I think you really need that!
We’ve always been very artistic in my family, so I guess my parents were used to it. I think it’s good because it gives me a little room to experiment with these things.
It’s October, 2021. What’s happening at Tea Baa?
Hopefully there’ll be 10 more tea baas, all being run by one of my 10 Dedo clones *laughs*.
I’m also opening a second location, hopefully soon! It’ll be along the Spintex road, but not on the main road. I know I have a lot of customers who live in Airport Hills and on the Spintex road who aren’t able to always make it to Nyaniba, so this is a nice way to include them.
I started Tea Baa on 17 March 2016, which people can’t believe, because it’s like we’re 10 months going on 10 years!
My goal for Tea Baa wasn’t really to have a restaurant. I wanted to use Tea Baa as a platform for all sorts of artistic ventures and as a hub for artistic expression. So I really love to host different events here, and I always tell people if you have something to share, bring it!
Any final thoughts for our readers?
Do what you love. If you have any talent or skill at all that you can turn into something, chase it and nurture it! I wake up every morning and I’m excited for Tea Baa. Sometimes I’ll even be at home and I’ll start chanting, “Tea Baa! Tea Baa!!” It will be difficult, but it’ll always be worth it.