I am Culpernia Anastasia Coleman popularly known on social media as Anna Cole, a fashion designer with the fashion and accessory brand Pernia by Anna Cole. I am a proud Ghanaian married to a Nigerian. At a very tender age I knew I didn't want anyone to control my time, how I dress to work, how I executed my ideas and that meant being an entrepreneur. I knew my talent was art, everything designing was my passion. My mother was a seamstress and I followed all she did when I was with her but I wasn't certain I wanted to get into the Fashion industry but I knew I wanted to have a career related to my talent and passion which is designing. I couldn't pursue art after secondary school because my dad didn't really love the idea of me being an artist, he rather preferred me being an accountant, engineer etc. During that period, I traveled to the UK stayed for 8 years, returned to Ghana facing so many challenges. Through the challenges, I realized it was time for me to get to work but the question was "what exactly I wanted to start doing? "
My mum is a very spiritual woman and brought us up that way. At this point I needed answers on business under designing which was in line with my purpose I had to setup so I started praying with my mum. Someone might wonder why I had to pray about setting up a business, the answer is simple. It's because God is my source. He knows me more than I do, to make it easier to understand - God is my manufacturer and He only knows the mission He has for me to accomplish. While praying, the answer came and fashion it was. Now I got to know the answer but anxiety, fear of failure didn't let me start immediately, I kept postponing. I remember vividly when my mother and two sisters always kept encouraging me to start because they knew I could do better. This talk kept going till I met my husband, then we were just dating. He kept encouraging me as well until one day we argued over why I was so scared to start, he knows I could do. I remember the day when he sat me down, asked me to choose a name for my brand, that same moment we designed the logo, designed the letter heads and complementary cards. From then I registered and that's when I started Pernia by Anna Cole, a fashion and accessory brand. I started with designing ladies apparel, a year into the business, my workers left without any prior notice. I continued with my mum but the orders got too much for both of us to handle so we had to halt business to look for workers. It wasn't easy, months went by without any results. While on this long break, I had a dream one afternoon when sleeping, in the dream I saw myself designing some neck pieces, the exact materials I used, the process. Immediately I woke up, sketched all the designs, I told my mom about it and she was ready to assist. I then got the materials, we started designing and that is how my first neck pieces collection the GRANDUER in July 2015 came about. I remember the day it was released online, I received 40 orders, received so many interviews from other countries and that boosted my moral since then. I felt really encouraged to do better. Someone might ask if I studied fashion, the answer is no. Nothing I do was learnt and my mother also never studied fashion. It's a gift! This year marks seven years anniversary when I started the brand, releasing our clothing collection very soon.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
I was so scared of failing, the industry had so many amazing designers and the fact that I was not in the country for some time and lost my contacts, my thoughts were running wild on who was going to recognize me, who was going to support me and patronize my products. Then I started reading stories of established entrepreneurs, reading books and it helped me to overcome that hurdle. Reading made me understand that the sky can accommodate me or my gift. I also understood that we all have unique styles and there are customers for every brand. My Bible also made me to understand that I couldn't do it on my own. I needed to turn back to my source, God ... With Him, hard work, persistence and focus will get me to my desired destination... Joshua 1: 6-9, Proverbs 16:3
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I am currently reading Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins, I will recommend Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki, a book I resisted reading for years but after reading I wished I had read it about 15 years ago. I realized it's one of the best financial book I've ever read.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
My mother was very okay with my chosen career because we both prayed about it and knew I was taking the right step but my dad wasn't. He preferred me being an engineer, accountant etc rather than being an artist so choosing this career path really strained our relationship, what made it worse was when I used an amount of money he gave me to prepare my documents to travel to establish my business. But I would say, with time we have worked out our relationship. I believe seeing my progress will make him a proud father now.. I learnt that not everyone around you will understand your journey, they wouldn't see what you see. They only understand when you begin winning.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I would say it has been God all through, His grace has carried me through. Also learning from my setbacks and mistakes at every stage of my business growth made gave me the opportunity to make certain plans that has really influenced my business positively.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Setbacks and mistakes are part of the process, accept it when it happens and learn from it to make better decisions in the future. Don't expect too much support from friends and family or expect them to be the ones to patronize your products because most of them wouldn't. You lose people along the way when they see you moving up the ladder.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Having a nugget of advice from someone who have been there before is like gold but as time goes on, you'll realize that some of the tips are applicable to your business and others are not. You have to be comfortable with the unknown because you will never know enough. You will always be in a situation where you will be made to make a decision without fully understanding what is coming next or what the result will be.
Be more focused on setting more realistic goals which are achievable.
You must be ready and able to operate optimally under extreme pressure.
Make yourself relatable by acknowledging your own fallibility and human imperfections to be teachable.