Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mark, Small Business Owner

Whew! Did you miss me?

Since my last post school has started, and along with it came all the back-to-school craziness including Back to School Night which we never miss because it's the one night all of Cooper's teachers tell us how much they like him and what a charming, funny guy he is.

Because later in the year, for the mid-semester Parent/Teacher Conferences, we hear about how charming and funny and disruptive he is... not as much fun, although over the last eleven years we have gotten used to it, and until 3rd grade his teachers considered him more charming than disruptive.

We have a pledge from him this year to buckle down and try not to get shut out of every decent college in America because he is so charming and funny and disruptive (which translates into lazy and unmotivated and scraping by on the least amount of work possible while getting the most amount of laughs in class...).

Anyway. That's where I've been.

But this post isn't about Mr. Charisma.

This one is about our Mark. And his new store.

Actually he's had it all summer.

In Ghana you can have a phone in your house, if you have electricity and stuff and you are cabled up to the phone company. We have electricity (usually) but no phone cable, nor do many of the people in this neck of the woods. Or neck of the palms.

You can have a mobile phone, if you can afford one (the basic ones here go for anything from about $90 U.S. to $500 U.S.), and can afford to keep buying SIM cards for them (pay-as-you-go calling).

You can use a pay phone, if you can find one- I've only seen them outside the Ghana Telecom offices, although there may be more around I haven't noticed- suffice it to say they aren't common.

Your final option (and a popular one it is), is to go to a Phone Vendor. The are set up all over Accra- and for that matter, much of Ghana.

The vendor gets a 'transfer chip' from the cellular phone company (which costs a buttload- around $500 U.S.), and then they set you up with a phone and a banner and you are open for business.

We floated Mark a loan for his chip, he scored a box/table, a bench, and an umbrella from which hangs his banner.

Then he set up shop on Jungle Road about a block from home.

Here he is this afternoon, with Elliot who loves Mark dearly but can't stay at the store because even though he behaves he scares away customers.

Jungle Road is a busy place- lots of traffic, both foot and car, lots of activity day and night. Good for business.

Unfortunately, everyone else thinks so too, and within two blocks of Mark's store there are at least four other Phone Vendors on any given day.

But you know by now that Mark is a swell guy. He is cheerful, friendly, cute as the dickens, and I believe pretty attractive to the ladies.

Whenever we leave the house, if we go past Mark's Phone Store, he usually has a few people on his bench. Even if they aren't all paying customers, the other umbrellas rarely have anyone under them.

We choose to believe that Mark is the most popular phone store on Jungle Road.

And he has already paid back a big chunk of money while still sending money home to his Mom, so we are pretty sure that we are right.

Yay Mark! We are so proud of him, and he loves that phone store.

His work around our house is never neglected. Everything gets done and done right, but then we see him wander by the front window and down the driveway carrying his umbrella and phone, off to his second career.

We always make a big deal out of waving to him when we drive by because he always has such a big smile on his face.

We hope having Obronis make a fuss around his store is good for business.

And if you are ever in East Legon and need to make a phone call- look for our Mark! ;-)