Founder Feature: Tuffuor Samuel of RetailTower:This week, we sat down with RetailTower CEO Tuffuor Samuel. Read on to learn why he loves fufu and Google!
Tell me a bit about your company.
I am the CEO of RetailTower. It is an e-commerce marketing company that allows merchants with web-stores to distribute their inventory across multiple platforms such as Google, Amazon, Facebook. If you have a web-store and you want your product to be on these platforms, RetailTower is the place to come.
Why did you come to MEST?
After school, I was working in the Ministry of Education for my national service and I was given the opportunity to continue. I felt the impact I wanted to make would not be achieved while working there. One day I saw an advertisement for MEST in the newspapers. I, immediately, felt like it was what I’d been looking for. I rushed to an internet cafe to look at the questions and then I worked nonstop from Friday evening till Sunday(deadline) morning to get my application ready. My passion and zeal to grow and make something meaningful and different are what brought me to MEST.
How did MEST help get you to where you are today?
MEST provided the platform. It gave me training. Prior to coming to MEST I didn’t have any background in business and programming. At MEST, I received training in entrepreneurship and learnt software development and much more. MEST also gave me funding and my team. I was able to meet like minded people at a good level. Also MEST gave me the incubator office space, which allowed me to relax, sit down, and develop my product.
What do you wish you had known as an EIT? Do you have any advice for this year’s group?
As EITs, we fantasized a lot about our projections. We thought what we’d learned in the classroom was as smooth as what is happening in the real market. So as an EIT I wish I would have known that the market is different. Your targets will not always be met as you projected and your product will have different meanings to customers; they will not always use your product the way you wanted. The way you see your product in the classroom or the design room is not how users will. Also, you will definitely miss projections and deadlines. You have to be moderated in your projections.
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting your company, what would you tell yourself?
I would have told myself to hire the right people from day one and not try to do everything by myself. I would look deeply into myself and decide which are my core competencies and which are the things I need a different person to do for me. I wouldn’t waste two months trying to implement a feature that an expert could implement in three or four days.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced while at the MEST training program and the MEST Incubator? How did you get past these challenges?
At the MEST training program, the biggest challenge I faced was the curriculum. Switching from my background in social sciences where I just did reading and writing to writing code (I had never written code before coming to MEST) was the biggest challenge. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was very uncomfortable and, at times, I thought about leaving. I got past it when I got feedback from the senior faculty who told me I wasn’t supposed to master it all within the first quarter of the second semester because there were two years to learn it. It was really emphasized that I give myself time. After that, I developed a plan where every evening I’d go to the study room and complete my assignments. I also identified people who were very strong in certain subjects. I identified these people and used them as resources. I also picked up projects during the vacations and then discussed them with the fellows.
At the incubator, the problem has been building the business and also managing myself. There are some times that I feel as if the business is taking over my whole life. I sleep, eat and dream the business. The challenge is trying to strike a balance between the business and my personal life.
What would you say is your greatest success?
That would be the funding that we received from MEST. It was a time that not many companies had received funding from MEST. I think maybe only one company had before us. There were a lot of uncertainties. We had to put a lot of effort into the business. One thing that was striking was that after we pitched our ideas, the incubator rejected them. So about a month before the pitch, we didn’t have any business idea and all the other cofounders started evaluating their options. But, we still came together to put in a last minute effort and when we came up with the idea. We worked on it day and night. When we were able to pull it off, it was a huge relief. That was the turning point in our lives.
What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food is fufu because growing up I ate it every day. In my culture, if you don’t eat fufu in a day, you have fasted. My mum would tell my big sister to prepare fufu because yesterday we didn’t eat, we only had banku!
What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?
My favorite memory from my time at MEST was when the senior faculty gave me a hug after a presentation. We did a group presentation and I wasn’t deeply involved. After the presentation, she asked me a question which I couldn’t answer very well so she told me I should do a presentation on the difference between venture capitalists and angel investors. It was kind of difficult as I had only the weekend to prepare. I worked on it, practiced it, did everything. After I did the presentation, she came up to me, gave me a hug, and told me that I had set the bar and to never go down again. That was my favorite moment.
What is your favorite tech company? Why?
Google! They defined the world. They’ve had so much influence in the world. Now they determine what you read, even how you live your life. They’ve organized the world, all information, all knowledge. Now everything is Google.
Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by growth. I would like to achieve acres and acres of professional growth. I would like to grow my company, I would like to also fund other ideas. That is what makes me go on. I want to achieve growth. I want to grow companies, expand my business.
Where are you from?
I’m from a small village in the Ashanti Region of Ghana called Nkenkaasu.
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