Bringing good quality products to consumers in Liberia can be a dear investment. But this entrepreneur like many others, soon find out that a credible and committed human resource is key to business success.
Known among her colleagues in the United States as ‘Lady LIB’ due to her love for Liberia, Elizabeth Sombai, who has worked for two U.S. mortgage companies (Wells Fargo and US Bank), decided to return home to invest.
Though she was warned about the business climate in Liberia and the risks of involving family members, she took her chances anyway.
“The first season was not encouraging,” Ms. Sombai confesses, and recounted the experience of a young Liberian lady who also had invested US$60,000 in Liberia but sadly got family members involved and lost her investment.
“The lady is not herself anymore,” Sombai says, admitting that she herself experienced total loss in her first investment. But she considers it a sacrifice, because it was during the Ebola outbreak, when businesses suffered across the board.
Sombai holds a Masters in business Administration with emphasis in human resource and plans to invest in restaurant and the entertainment sectors.
Drawing from her studies in human resource management, she explains that finding Liberian workers who would own or treat their job as their own and protect it is the most difficult, even though she is making progress.
“I just fired my office manager because he was always late for work and would take things without my knowledge,” she explains. Now she has two workers, along with her, and hopes to get committed Liberian workers, as her business grows in the future.
She says, “I expect my workers to understand that, despite the relationship we build as a result of working together, the most important thing is the job and how it must succeed and not us.”
“I have passion to establish a business or businesses in Liberia,” she says.
Presently, she operates a grill, selling roasted fish and meat and salad for consumers on Gurley Street in the evening hours, supported by two workers, Louise Sayeh and Prince Garpi. She also owns Telsie Paradise, a fashion boutique on Gurley Street.
She notes that when she observed that there were thousands of products from Asia flooding the Liberian market, she realized their poor or cheap quality and decided that Liberian consumers deserved better.
“I therefore decided to return to the United States and bring quality products from America and Europe that consumers can be proud to spend money to own,” Ms. Sombai said.
According to her, Telsie Paradise offers, “Quality products in variety of fashionable items, including sneakers, tee-shirts, blouses, cologne, perfumes and deodorant.”
Ms. Sombai says she knows that the business climate in Liberia is full of challenges, “but I have the passion to remain in it because I think that’s what I can do for a country (Liberia) that is so close to my heart.”