Anthony Dzamefe: How a Village Boy Moved from Selling on the Street in Accra to Start a Luxury Watch Brand

Anthony Dzamefe: How a Village Boy Moved from Selling on the Street in Accra to Start a Luxury Watch Brand

  • Anthony Dzamefe is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of Caveman Watches and TimepieceGh
  • The Ghanaian businessman ventured into the watch-making industry after he started three businesses that failed to yield positive returns
  • Undaunted by failures, Dzamefe started his now-flourishing ventures, and he recently spoke to YEN.com.gh about the rough path to carving a successful niche in his field

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Anthony Dzamefe's troubled journey into entrepreneurship began at an early age with his birth mother in Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana.

At the time, he barely understood what it took to start, run, and maintain a business. But he knew his mother's ventures were means of survival that required his support and that of his three brothers.

The native of Lume in the Volta Region mostly lived with his self-employed mother, who sold bofrot (buffloaf) and ice cream. She was also involved in pepper farming and managed a mobile hairdressing setup at home and in the houses of clients who called on her service.

How Ghanaian entrepreneur Anthony Dzamefe started his watch brand.
Ghanaian businessman Anthony Dzamefe. Credit: anthonydzamefe.
Source: UGC

The early exposure to entrepreneurship built Dzamefe to balance his studies and hawking. He sold his mother's snacks at an early age. His father, however, was hardly present in their daily lives as he worked with customs, which required his presence at different locations where the job had him transferred.

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Despite his father's absence, he remembers growing up in love with his mother and brothers. Anthony Dzamefe was the third of four children who grew up in a home that was not short of ''significant basic needs''.

He tells YEN.com.gh that though his quest for doing business began in his family's homes in Ho and Lume, he was too young to understand the trajectory of his fate to become a businessman eventually.

But this was not only him. Most people who surrounded Dzamefe then found him overly opinionated and labelled him a troubled child due to his unconventional ways of disobeying rules and challenging the status quo.

He would later discover that those were inherent attributes of resilience and the traits of an adventurer who resisted any one-way thinking and means of achieving results. But not until he struggled throughout his childhood and early 20s.

Anthony Dzamefe's early education and rough relationship with authority

Young Dzamefe started his early education at Christ Prince of Peace Preparatory School in Ho, where he left in class three to Mawuli Junior High School to further his primary education and complete junior high school (JHS).

At St. Paul's Senior High School (SHS), formerly St. Paul's Secondary at Hatsukope-Denu in the Ketu South Municipal District of the Volta Region, he recalls having a rough academic path.

''My stubbornness was at its peak. Unlike other Science students, I would disobey rules, jump walls, frequently get punished, and missed classes,'' he told YEN.com.gh.

He described the punishment system at St. Paul's Senior High School back then as torture, saying it was draconian.

''I was not a fan of the rigid school system/structure because the structure had no room for opinionated students,'' says Dzamefe.

His behaviour drifted him far from the admiration of his educators. His mother had to entrust him in the hands of one Mr Sepa, who showed an interest in his development. Mr Sepa tried to get Dzamefe to abandon his ''abnormal behaviour''.

The educator, however, made little impact in controlling and getting him to heed the school's rules. Dzamefe said missing classes did not have any dreadful toll on his studies.

''It didn't have any significant impact on my studies. I could summarise what was thought in a one-hour class and grasp it,'' Dzamefe told YEN.com.gh.

But it did! His performance in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) was average. Hence, he could not further his studies in Science at the university.

''I studied Science in senior high school because my teachers back in junior high school felt I was brilliant. Instead, I discovered my passion for art, writing, and business.''

Dzamefe says he became more interested in the English Language and the Business programme and even came up with the name of his mother's shop while in high school.

Anthony Dzamefe's adult life and tertiary education

Before his final WASSCE examinations as a teenager, he started thinking about career options and tried to switch and write the exams as a business student, but it was too late.

Dzamefe failed to achieve the required results to further his studies in a degree course at the University of Ghana, where he first applied to further his studies. He enrolled in Delcam Academy for a six-month Business programme and sat for the exams in the establishment.

He tells YEN.com.gh that he finished and enrolled in the Institute of Professional Studies (Ips), present-day UPSA, where he pursued a diploma in Business Management.

But his penchant for disobeying rules at the Institute and later in Bolgatanga, where he completed his national service as a teacher, had become more striking.

He remembers leaving the school premises against instructions by the headteacher that educators were to remain on campus after their lessons or teaching till the closing hour during his national service.

''If the rule didn't make sense, I was going to break it. I did not have a good relationship with the headmaster because of this,'' he said.

How life threw challenges at Anthony Dzamefe

After serving the nation, Dzamefe returned to UPSA for a degree programme in Business Administration, but tragedy struck when he lost his father in 2012. His mother became the sole breadwinner of the family, making life difficult.

He said he had to find a job to support himself. ''My brothers and I were all in the university, and my mom could not afford to take care of us alone.''

Anthony Dzamefe relocates to Accra for greener pastures

''My mom became the breadwinner after my father passed away and could not provide for all four kids. I was shuttling between school in Accra and Ho before I later rented a place in Accra and relocated. I secured a job as a sales and marketing promoter at a luxury hotel.''

He tells YEN.com.gh that the living conditions at his residence in Madina in Accra were harsh.

''If you open both arms, you could touch both walls in the room. The room shared a common toilet with everyone in the compound.'' he recounted to YEN.com.gh.

Dzamefe's soured relationship with the Marketing Manager at the hotel worsened his distress. But the unimaginable was yet to emerge. He had a petrifying experience at his residence when a masked person wielding a pickaxe robbed him one night.

Despite the horrendous encounter in his shabby room and soured relationship with his boss, life presented Dzamefe with more challenges. And it kept getting worse. The experiences shook and broke him as he recounts having depressing moments where he cried and mourned his late father.

Resigning from his job at the hotel

Before he resigned, he took a break to have time alone at the beach to engage in soul-searching to discover his true purpose, determine what he wanted to become, and redefine the negative labels people attached to him owing to his behaviour.

''I found out I could not survive in a bureaucratic environment. I discovered I could withstand challenges and everything I thought was needed to make me the person I am today.''

Why Anthony Dzamefe resigned

He tells YEN.com.gh that the Marketing Manager at the hotel at the time devised a ploy to move him from the office to work as human signage holding placards at the Kotaka International Airport in Accra. They got him to agree under the guise that he would be the manager of a newly established lounge owned by the hotel at the airport.

''The hotel's General Manager said they were opening a lounge at the airport, and the hotel wanted me to manage that place. He thought I was the best person to manage that department.''

But when he arrived at the airport with the Assistant Manager, he was shocked when he found no lounge.

''The Assistant Manager told me the airport said they would charge the hotel $100 daily to get me a chair and table somewhere, but the hotel said they couldn't afford it. I became human signage; I had to carry a placard over my head to attract people to the hotel when flights arrived.
''Initially, I didn't suspect anything, but I soon realised it was a ploy to get me out because I learned my replacement was in the office the day they asked me to go to the airport to manage the supposed lounge.''

After a year at the airport, Dzamefe took the bold step and resigned from his job at the hotel. But before he walked out, he recalls attempting to convince a colleague he named Solomon to join him.

He said he was inspired to quit and start his business after reading a book titled Business Secrets from the Bible, which he bought to occupy himself when there were no incoming flights.

''The airport did some renovation, so they moved us from the arrival hall to work outside. That was the last straw. My friends were already ridiculing me in class, and now I had to work as human signage outside the airport.''

His book opened his mind to ideas and empowered him to quit and start something for himself. ''I began writing things, and that became my joy.''

Dzamefe resigned from the hotel alone as Solomon tried to talk him out of the decision to quit. ''I identified him as the wrong person I talked to from the book.''

In 2016, after three years at the hotel, which included a year at the airport, Dzamefe resigned. He remembers calling his mom and telling her he was going to quit.

''She asked if I had another job ready. I said no, but I had a plan. But it was not much; I just figured that if I am the creative person I think I am, all I need is some time on my hands to trust in some other things. I was a craft man; I could do things with my hands.''

How Anthony Dzamefe started his business

He tells YEN.com.gh that though he had no idea what entrepreneurship was, he desired financial independence by 30.

Determined to realise this dream, he ventured into three businesses that failed. Dzamefe attempted to carve a niche in the entertainment and fashion industries and created an advertising brand but all collapsed.

''I started a business with young artistes to compose songs with the names of birthday celebrants to surprise them on their big day. We performed for people on their birthdays for money.''

But the team in the 'Nyansapo' music group wanted more. They wanted fame. ''The guys were impatient because they wanted to go the route of acclaimed musicians where they could do songs and perform in nightclubs and on big stages. They started showing up late to birthdays and ruining people's birthday plans.''

After dissolving the group, he sold secondhand suits before creating the advertising brand called Reel Vine. But the venture also failed to yield positive returns.

Before he folded the advertising company, he tried to rebrand. While registering new clients to grow his business, he started meeting some of his clients at plush places and sometimes at the Silver Lounge, Accra Mall. He recalls buying a watch for GH¢50 on KAYMU.Com to look the part for his business meetings.

''I took a picture and uploaded the photo on my WhatsApp status. Someone said the watch was nice and bought it. I made a gross profit of GH¢60.

''I started counting my profit. That was the journey of my wristwatch business,'' says Dzamefe.

How Anthony Dzamefe overcame early challenges and added value to his business

Dzamefe kicked off the journey with TimepieceGh, a brand that focused on selling imported branded watches. He expanded in early January 2019 to include Caveman Watches.

The business now has three showrooms and a factory where the company produces handcrafted timepieces. Dzamefe's success story emerged from his turbulent journey and the spoils of failed businesses.

Aside from triumphing over failure, he had to convince his mother why he had to hawk watches on the street and at the offices of prospecting clients. He also had to overcome the distractive voices that derided his effort to grow and establish his watch brand.

He tells YEN.com.gh that finance was not a significant challenge because he focused on starting small and growing gradually.

''I started Timepiece GH by selling imported branded watches for three years before adding the Caveman showrooms and factory. I added value.

''I had to learn how to repair watches because I discovered people with good watches had torn leather straps. I apprenticed for three months to learn watch repair from a roadside repairer. I also learned about leather craft from a leather shoemaker at Kantamanto.''

How Anthony Dzamefe coined his company's name Caveman Watches and worked with prominent brands

The businessman recounts watching documentaries about how cavemen built their work, which informed the name Caveman Watches, a brand he unveiled in January 2019 to represent the craftmanship of cavemen.

Since starting the watch brand, Caveman Watches has earned international participation and endorsements from the New York Times and Akon, the Senegalese-American singer, record producer, and entrepreneur.

The watch brand has also penetrated the Nigerian market through the company's ambassadorial deal with the Nigerian record producer, founder, and CEO of Mavin Records, Don Jazzy.

Dzamefe tells YEN.com.gh that President Akufo-Addo, Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Dutch football player Memphis Depay, veteran actor Fred Amugi, legendary musician Reggie Rockstone, business titans Dr Osei Kwame Despite, Dr Ernest Ofori-Sarpong, and Ibrahim Mahama all rock the Caveman Watches.

Aside from the business world, he's garnered visibility in Ghana's entertainment sector. His watch brand recently gained traction after he signed an ambassadorial deal with the veteran actor Fred Amugi.

Anthony Dzamefe's Awards

The CEO of the internationally recognised watch brand was recently honoured at the 2022 Head of States Gold Awards, where he received the Young Achievers and Innovators award in Ghana.

He was named the Overall Brand of the Year at the Exclusive Men of the Year (EMY) Africa Awards 2022 at the Grand Arena, Accra. Dzamefe has bagged many other awards and recognitions for his successful watch brand.

The future of Anthony Dzamefe's businesses

''Now, we have three showrooms and a factory at Adjiringanor.'' While he plans to grow and expand the ventures, Dzamefe said the growth includes impacting society positively.

His company recently partnered with the Ghanaian blogger Kobby Kyei to donate educational resources to the Penyi Akpatoeme DA Basic School. The items included school uniforms, shoes, and other supplies for the pupils in the Volta Region of Ghana.

The company also provides potable water to deprived communities in Ghana. ''The plan is to reach more people in the coming years,'' says Dzamefe.

Anthony Dzamefe's powerful story inspires all

From a village in Ho to Accra to creating his growing empire and hawking the street to sell branded watches, Anthony Dzamefe's life transcends resilience and determination. He will go down in Ghanaian history as the person who shattered the glass ceiling and became the first Ghanaian to produce domestically made watches in the West African nation. Congrats!

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Meanwhile, YEN.com.gh previously reported that Ing. Emmanuel Wireko-Brobby grew up in love but in poverty predominantly with his doting mother in Ashanti New Town in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

His father, Edward Wireko-Brobby, and his mother, Nana Asantewaa Mainoo, separated when he was very young and had to live with his mother, who was keen on his education.

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Source: YEN.com.gh

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