The adage of making lemonade out of lemons suffers from a dubious reputation for being a cliché, but fewer words would better describe Joseph Yaw Frimpong’s determination and tenacity.
In 2017 Frimpong was looking for a platform to publish the electronic version of his first book The Quietist. The platform opportunities that were available to him at the time were not accessible to many of his compatriots in Ghana. Unable to find any, he decided to create an app to publish his book.
This led to the co-founding of ReaderApp. Frimpong successfully published his book electronically, but after overcoming a common challenge faced by many writers, he decided to open it up to other publishers, especially those from Africa.
The app allows authors to publish their books in their massive e-book store, buy e-books from the comfort of their home, read books in the app, and provides authors with a way to make money.
According to Frimpong, he was inspired to publish his book electronically by Steve Jobs, who he says pioneered the concept of e-books. Launching ReadApp was the easy part, says Frimpong, but admits the task of maintaining and growing the platform was the most daunting.
Frimpong’s story highlights an all-too-familiar hurdle that many black founders face in order to sustain and grow their businesses. Harvard data shows that fewer than two percent (2%) of black business owners receive venture capital, and the situation is even worse for black women founders.
As a tech startup founder, the lack of seed capital has been a major Achilles heel, compounded by the low uptake of e-books, particularly in the African literary market. “Some people think that e-books should be free, buying e-books has yet to take root among Ghanaians. I think we’ll make it. However, it is a slow process,” he told Face2Face Africa.
Below is our full interview with Joseph Yaw Frimpong.
ASK: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
JYF: My name is Joseph Yaw Frimpong, I am co-founder of ReaderApp. Through my training as a demographer, I have chosen to believe that I have expertise in market research.
ASK: Tell us all about the ReaderApp
JYF: ReaderApp is an app for publishing, buying and reading e-books. It is for authors to publish their books and also for people to find those published books to buy and read.
ASK: How did you come up with the idea for the start-up?
JYF: The idea or should I say the inspiration came from a personal situation I found myself in. In 2017 I wanted to publish a book electronically and was looking for a platform to publish the book on. The options I got were inaccessible to Ghanaians, so I decided to create an app to publish the book on purpose. During the development phase we decided to open it up so that anyone who wants to publish their book on ReaderApp can do so.
ASK: What drives this inspiration?
JYF: I would say my biggest inspiration is Steve Jobs. The fact that he was one of the pioneers of the concept of e-books. He is also a perfectionist and is good at everything he does.
ASK: How difficult was the beginning?
JYF: I will say starting is the easiest part. Caring for and growing it is the hardest part.
ASK: What challenges are you facing?
JYF: This is more of a sociological question. Haha, we all know the challenges small businesses face in Ghana. Insufficient capital is one of them. The biggest hurdle for us is the acceptance of e-books. Some people think that e-books should be free, buying e-books has yet to be well established among Ghanaians. I think we’ll make it. It’s a slow process.
ASK: How do you market your company?
JYF: We use authors who have published on the app to market the app. It’s a chicken and egg situation; You need an egg before you can get a chicken…or whatever position you believe in.
ASK: Do you have employees? What does someone have to do to work with you?
JYF We currently have no employees, but we encourage internship opportunities. You can just email me via [email protected] and I will reply to you.
QUESTION: How does entrepreneurship compare to a regular job?
JYF: Entrepreneurship is tough, I wonder why it is glorified in movies and on social media. Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur. If you have a 9 to 5 job to do, please do it.
ASK: What can the government do to help young entrepreneurs?
JYF: I believe that the government needs to outsource activities that help young entrepreneurs to a PRIVATE venture capitalist who can identify and train talent and perhaps connect them to sources of funding.
ASK: Any advice for other entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs?
JYF: The job gets harder, but you have to get harder.