How I started my business creating African puzzles

20th May 2019

About Me

Hi!, my name is Patrick Adom, and I’m a Ghanaian entrepreneur. Stick with me for a few minutes to find out how I started my own business called ‘Very Puzzled’.

I was born in Ghana and moved to the UK when I was seven. This is a pretty common narrative. Like most African parents, my mum was very focused on all of her children doing their best academically. With her support and encouragement, I graduated with a BSc in Computing and went on to do an MBA in General Management. I have worked in IT ever since, graduating in 2000.  

This story starts when I visited Ghana in 2001 for the first time since I moved to the UK. The trip was amazing and on returning to the UK I set up a couple of websites to promote Ghanaian culture. I wanted to provide updates on events and news occurring in the Ghanaian community in the UK. As hard as it is to believe, this was at a time before Facebook, WhatsApp and smart phones etc.  Unfortunately, the websites are now defunct, however I kept my goal to provide a positive image of Ghana and Africa.

My Why – The impetus

Fast forward to 2011 and I’m the father of a beautiful little girl. Having my daughter gave me a sense of purpose that I didn’t have before. Moreover, it provided me with added impetus to fulfil the ambitions that I had left on the back burner for different reasons.

As my daughter was growing up, one of the things that struck me was the lack of diversity in the books, toys, clothes and other items that I would buy for her.  It was really discouraging not having any books with characters that looked like her. I reached out to my dad in Ghana to send over some books. This led to some business ideas on how to meet this demand. Describing one of my ideas to a cousin at a wedding, I could see that I had lost his attention in less than 30 seconds . I then mentioned the idea of an Africa map jigsaw puzzle and immediately I saw a different reaction. He was suddenly excited and interested in the idea.

From idea to puzzles

Towards the end of 2017 I began to research jigsaw puzzles; where to get them manufactured, the costs of getting the puzzles manufactured and shipped to the UK. I also refined and developed the items that would feature on the Africa jigsaw puzzle map. I found a designer who had produced an image of Africa that I liked and he was happy to amend his image to include additional items that I provided. My initial stock order of 100 puzzles arrived at the end of April 2018.  

Prior to the puzzles arriving, I had started to post on Instagram and had already reached out to a few shops that I thought would be interested in stocking them. On the week that my puzzles arrived there was an event organised by Black History Studies UK showing a film about Winnie Mandela. I attended the screening and also purchased a stall to sell my puzzles.

Getting out there

The event was great and I sold around a quarter of my initial stock so I was on a high! The next day was a Saturday and I drove around to a few shops with my puzzles in the boot of my car and managed to sell a further 25 puzzles. After this initial early success I ordered some more puzzles.  Some of the shops that I visited also recommended other shops that might be interested which was really good. Here is an example of the email I sent round:

So far things have been really positive and the feedback from people has been really good. I had initially thought that most of my sales would come from my website however most sales I make are through the shops that stock my puzzles. Before the end of 2018, I was able to launch a Ghana map jigsaw puzzle.  The plan is to launch puzzles for Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia and Jamaica and then other countries. I also want to have additional products such as t-shirts, sweat shirts, tote bags, posters etc. One of my more creative ideas are activity books that children can colour in and read. As they do this, they will learn more about the different countries in Africa.

Aside from launching additional puzzles, my objective for 2019 has been to get my puzzles stocked in the chain retailers in Ghana.  In order to accomplish my objectives I went to Ghana for Easter, taking my daughter with me. The two of us were able to attend meetings with some of the biggest African retailers. So far the feedback has been positive and the next phase involves delivering puzzles to the shops


Problems can be turned into opportunities

Doing business in Ghana has been a challenge as people prefer face-to-face meetings so my initial emails were not successful. However, once I was on the ground, things went well.  A major objective that I am looking at is how I can manufacture the puzzles myself in Ghana, I think that this is important for me to be able to do if I want to grow my business to it’s full potential.

I don’t believe that I have had any really challenges or obstacles to overcome. I generally look at these as being good things and try to find the opportunity that they present.  After the Ghana map was designed and printed, Ghana went from 10 to 16 regions. Therefore, my map became out of date and is now being redesigned. This has given me the opportunity to revamp the design of the box to include country information on the back and incorporate a barcode which is essential for the chain retailers. I have also had to change designers. However, the new designer is very competent and also provides a lot of feedback and suggestions so this has been positive.

One of the major retailers in Ghana challenged me on the price of my puzzles. They refused to stock my puzzles unless the price can be reduced. This has opened my eyes to the need to be able to make the puzzles myself and make them more affordable and spurred me on to look at setting up a manufacturing operation in Ghana more quickly than I had originally planned.

Changing me to fit the bill

I tend to like being anonymous and being able to quietly work away behind the scenes, however I have realised that I need to go out and network in person, reach out to people online and also share my story in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.

There is a lot of advice that a lot of more qualified people can give that you can find online and in books etc.  What spurred me on was to just go ahead and Just do it. Once you start you can always adjust as needed. I think that starting and continuing to go on are what counts. If you want to know more about my puzzles, follow me on twitter, instagram and checkout my website.


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