Business Entrepreneur of the Week

Entrepreneur of the Week: How Bohten Eyewear Founder, Nana Boateng Osei, Harnessed Ecommerce to Survive COVID-19

Bohten
This series was brought to you in paid partnership with Facebook Canada.

Osei discusses how digital integration has grown his business in the midst of the pandemic.

Developing an eyewear brand doesn’t necessarily make you a crusader committed to tackling the changing rates of vision loss around the world. Nana Boeteng Osei, however, fits the bill. A Canadian entrepreneur working to redirect the course of sight loss for affected individuals everywhere, Osei is the founder of Bohten Eyewear. 

In 2019, the World Health Organization reported that 80 percent of all blindness is preventable. While startling, the statistics should inspire society to take eye care and education seriously. Unfortunately in Canada and neighbouring countries eye care continues to be one of the most overlooked health concerns humans face. Osei believes the remedy is simple—education. 

“For us, it starts with providing accessible eye exams in local communities by teaming with local opticians and optometrists to provide better eye education while also highlighting the impact of good vision on every individual over a year. Partnering with other social enterprises with an aligned vision, as we do, is also essential to revolutionizing how communities approach eye care.” 

The idea of the premium eyewear brand, inspired by the ‘rolling hills and deep hues of nature’s own palette found in Kwahu, Ghana,’ came to Osei while visiting his home country in 2009. Today the brand has grown to redefine classic eyewear putting a rustic twist on elegance without sacrificing the timeless feel you look for in a great pair of frames. 

“The beauty of Bohten is the multiplicity of identities, cultures, and individuals that it gives room to,” says Osei. “We believe in the strength that comes from connecting across differences, creating shared ground for people of all shades.”

Committed to the betterment and empowerment of communities in Ghana, Osei uses Bohten as an innovation hub where he stimulates local talent. Bohten sources only eco-friendly raw materials and reclaimed wood from Africa in order to reduce CO2 emissions in the production process. 

Actively working to create the changes he wants to see, Osei and his team at Bohten are now launching a new tree planting initiative to curb the lasting effects of deforestation. “A large part of what we do involves teaching the youth about eyecare, hiring local talent, and creating valuable, long-lasting products on the continent for our people, by our people.” The lasting goal, Osei says, is developing a sustainable blueprint for manufacturing by using renewable energy.

In uncovering what he saw as an endless amount of untapped potential, from creative minds to an incredible supply of sustainable natural resources, Bohten Eyewear has received recognition from VOGUE, GQ and Facebook.  

“It means a lot to me, to be able to lead by example and not just by my words. Our communities need leadership through education, expertise, and innovation. Our production hub in Ghana is a crucial centrepiece for designers and creatives who want to push the boundaries with their manufacturing and innovation,” says Osei.

In July, 2020 Osei was part of a larger initiative with Facebook in support of small businesses. In their first release of the Facebook Global State of Small Business Report, Facebook conducted a large scale pulse check of 30,000 small to medium businesses (SMBs) across 50 countries, gaining insights on how they have been dealing with closures and loss of business caused by COVID-19. The report found that for SMBs, the effect of the coronavirus outbreak could be lasting and lethal without intervention. Now in the second wave of the report released, August 12, 2020, has seen some improvement in business productivity.

Bohten
bohten

During the onset of the pandemic in early March, like many businesses, Bohten focused efforts on digital optimization. With 53 percent of SMB reporting that 25 percent or more of their monthly sales are now made online, according to Facebook’s second Global State of Small Business Report, e-commerce has been a saving grace for those who were forced to close their storefronts.

Other Key Findings 

  • 57 percent of operational SMBs in Facebook’s August report (compared to 64 percent in the July report) said that their sales this year are lower than last year
  • 86% of women-led SMBs in the August report (compared to 67% in July) and 88% of male-led SMBs (compared to 83% in July) reported that they were operational or engaging in any revenue-generating activities.
  • In July’s report, one-third of businesses currently operating reported that they had reduced their workforces.
  • 63 percent of operational SMBs in August (compared to 61 percent in July)  reported they felt optimistic about the future of their business.
  • 35 percent of SMBs not receiving financial assistance in August (compared to 21% in Wave July) reported no assistance was available for their company.
  • 35 percent of SMBs in Wave August (compared to 43 percent in July) reported they were receiving some form of financial support.

Osei says with the help of Facebook Shops and shoppable tags, e-commerce integration was made easier. 

“Instagram and Facebook shops + shoppable tags have been integral to enhancing our shopping experience for our customers. People can shop styled looks for our eyeglasses on our Instagram feed before deciding to move forward with a purchase on our website.”

As global market uncertainty continues to be felt far beyond Canada’s borders, Bohten’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, community growth, and education are pillars that are helping him weather the storm.