Trading corporate world for passion • Story of Janet Sunkwa-Mills

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Mrs Janet Sunkwa-Mills, CEO of AFRIBIZ Group Limited
Mrs Janet Sunkwa-Mills, CEO of AFRIBIZ Group Limited

Mrs Janet Sunkwa-Mills is the Chief Executive Officer of AFRIBIZ Group Limited, a consortium of companies providing consulting services in Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) marketing. She is also the CEO of Jane’ M Salon and Spa.

Mrs Sunkwa-Mills has over 22 years working experience in various senior managerial positions in the FMCG industry in several African countries. Her FMCG career started in 1994 with the Nestlé Ghana and progressed into various local and expatriate roles. In April 2008, Janet became one of the few women to assume the role of Business Executive Manager (BEM) in Nestlé. She was the BEM for Culinary in charge of 21 countries in Nestlé Equatorial African Region in Nairobi, Kenya.

After this, she worked with GB Foods – a leading Spanish FMCG company as the Marketing Director for Africa / Middle East and also a member of the Regional Management Team in charge of 23 countries.

Mrs Sunkwa-Mills is an Executive Member of the Executives Women Network.

Taking her turn on the ‘Engine Room’ series on the Springboard, Your Virtual University, she took listeners through her corporate life, what inspired her to start a salon and also shared some marketing tips.

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Source of inspiration

On what inspires her, she said she had so many sources on inspiration but the reason why she was who she was now was largely due to how she grew up.

Growing up, she said one of things that made her happy was making things and people around her looked beautiful.

“I liked playing with my dolls and making things look beautiful. Those who know me will tell you they are not surprised to see me starting Jane’M Salon. I was the one who will make my friends hair, their make-up and polish their nails.

“I personally believe that God created each one of us with a purpose and to achieve their own personal legend in life. I was created for a reason and I think it is easy to connect your purpose in life with your talent and what drives you,” she explained.

On how individuals could notice their talents, she said, “if you to find out what is your passion and talent, ask yourself when I wake up in the morning, what naturally comes to me and what drives my interest.”

“When you follow your personal legend and what makes you who you are, it is very easy to survive in difficult situations,” she said.

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Making people smile and confident

Mrs Sunkwa-Mills emphasised that, growing up, she had always wanted people around her to look beautiful, smile and feel confident.

“In my early teens, I was taken to the boarding school very early and there was this old lady in the boarding school and people use to say it was difficult to figure out this old lady. So I use to go and plait this old lady’s hair and she was so moved and would normally give me fruits. She told me one day that I am a talent and that I should pursue this.

“I didn’t take it seriously then but I had the same experience with one of my bosses in Kenya. I was in the office and he looked at me and said I was in the wrong industry. He said to me “you know how to put yourself together and you should probably help others put themselves together,” she narrated.

She said one of her mentors who was doing her personal imaging photography asked her to come and help her, telling her that she had a personal knack for putting things together.

“So when I quit the corporate job, I told myself this is it and I love it. I just love it when something I do make people smile and confident,” she said.

Customer experience

Mrs Sunkwa-Mills noted that her number one interest was to give customers who visited her salon a good experience that would stick with them forever.

“When I have clients in my salon, I am more interested in how their experience was and this is because, what your heart remembers, your mind never forgets.

“When you connect with your consumer’s heart and their emotions, it is linked to the brain and the brain registers it, especially when it is a pleasant experience,” she said.

She pointed out that in marketing, a person could only make an impact and be compelling if he or she met the needs of the customer.

“What will compel you to come to my salon is not just the hair because some salons could also do the hair. So what makes the difference is how the person connects to you,” she stated.

Role of appearance

Mrs Sunkwa-Mills, who is a marketing consultant, also pointed out that in marketing, packaging and appearance was very important.

“Whether it is service you are delivering or a product you are selling, there must be an appealing factor to it. And I believe God made the eyes for a very good reason, he made it because that is our first point of contact.

“So the packaging of a product can appeal to you mentally or emotionally and if you are a very good marketing strategist, you try appeal to the emotions first. When you get it right and the experience of the product or service is aligned to the packaging, completely you are a winner,” she noted.

She said individual appearance was also very important in marketing, stating that “as you walk in there, what does your appearance communicate even before you open your mouth?”

“Your appearance says a lot about you and if you top it up with a smile, you win before you start talking. And when you match it with the brains then it works like magic,” she said.