On a bar stool in a wine café in Labone in Accra sits Nadia Takyiwaa-Mensah, across from me. She liberally wields an easy infectious laugh and a witty, questioning attitude. She is the picture of vivacity and mirth.
Her warmth, and occasional exchanges with Jane, her PR assistant, depicts an assured, confident woman in full control of her domain.
No surprise here; she runs a pretty successful brand management agency – Sixth Sense Manifesto – that operates in eight countries in Africa and Europe. The wine café, Sai, is hers too.
A glance at Takyiwaa-Mensah, suggests she literally carries this bearing anywhere. This self-confessed free-spirited introvert, lives her life in full and leaves no room for grey areas.
Coming to Africa
About 11 years ago, Takyiwaa-Mensah escaped a routine, regimented life in the UK where she was born to Ghanaian parents – and struck out, intent on reinventing herself back in Africa.
One Thursday morning on her way to work she says, “I stepped out of the car”, at the train station, “ I said to myself I cannot do this for the rest of my life.”
She had lived to some schedule or other created by the Western system all her life. As a child she was required to be in school or her parents could be fined, as an adult she was living the promise of a ‘comfortable’ life financed by credit cards and bank loans that demanded she would always have to work to pay her debts and to maintain ‘that life’. Everything was set like a clockwork.
Takyiwaa-Mensah was rebelling against the certainty of a droll, colourless life in a world that existed before the financial crisis of 2009. On that day at the train station, she realised she had a choice and chose to live a different life.
Not surprising really, Takyiwaa-Mensah who grew up in a multiracial neighbourhood admits that she thrives on change and couldnot stand being stagnant .She finds Ghana satisfying due to a constant sea of change.
“You are seeing businesses change, environments change, interactions …a lot of things change. And it makes it interesting. It makes it exciting.”
Takyiwaa-Mensah was an early entrepreneur, selling little gizmos and squirty little things - toys her mother brought home from her Novelty store job on Oxford street - to her friends in junior school around age eight or nine, and later running an online business selling a waist trainer band to help women regain their figure after childbirth.
Though her three siblings would get jobs selling newspapers or other stuff, at age 11, she was seriously contemplating making money from writing books and walking a different path.
But from age 16 when she started doing part-time jobs and later on her full-time jobs, she says, “I was always doing little business projects. I must have written about 15 to 20 different business plans for businesses, NGOs and so on”.
Living by sixth sense – everything just falls in place
Sixth Sense Manifesto, her brand management agency has offices in Ghana, Nigeria and the UK, and at the last count has worked in eight markets in total including Tanzania, South Africa and Kenya.
In 2008 Takyiwaa-Mensah had her spiritual calling to come to Ghana. At the time, she understood this urging to only be exploratory – something to satisfy her curiosity for Ghana.
She would later realise God was directing her to start Sixth Sense after her carefully laid plans to work a few more years before moving back fell through with the unexpected arrival of her son.
Before this, Takyiwaa-Mensah’s natural interest in Ghana and Africa became inexplicably entwined with an interest in marketing. Although she worked in operations in a media firm, she began reading marketing textbooks and grew a desire to apply this new knowledge on the continent.
When she got the marketing manager’s job at Africa Confidential, the Africa-wide politics and economics newspaper, she was suddenly travelling across the continent and huddling in the corridors of power with big wigs in both political and business circles.
Very quickly, Takyiwaa-Mensah grew from one who knew next to nothing about Africa, to one who was building Africa contacts.
“I was understanding the continent a bit more. I was understanding the movements in the continent. I was understanding where people wanted to be.”
This understanding of the continent, her total experiential marketing understanding and her media, culture and communication studies background from Greenwich University have placed her at a strong advantage as the person of choice for blue chip and international brands looking to grow their brands’ influence in Africa. Takyiwaa-Mensah has done work for Estée Lauder, Merc Pharma, International Finance Corporation and Vodafone amongst others.
Sai, her wine and champagne café presents an alternative lifestyle choice and runs wine tasting sessions on Thursday evenings where the current and aspiring middle and average middle class can learn a thing or two about wine and champagne.
Nadia Takyiwaa-Mensah combines a keen business sense with a firm spirituality, attributing her succeses to her reliance on and daily conversations with God.
The way she speaks of this sounds a lot less like a religious relationship than a sixth sense by which she navigates her world.
She is living in a sense, by a sixth sense manifesto.