Ama Yawson and her husband, Charles, co-founded Joojos, an artisanal children’s shoe company. Brooklyn, NY-based Joojos empowers Black children through shoes and storytelling and helps children in Ghana. Joojos shoes are made from Italian leathers and are partially handcrafted in Romania. They donate all of our children’s used Joojos shoes to Ghanian children in need.
Ama is also the author of a children’s book entitled, “Sunne’s Gift: How Sunne Overcame Bullying to Reclaim God’s Gift,” published through her company, Milestales.
Yawson, an attorney, author, publisher, entrepreneur and educator, earned a BA from Harvard University, an MBA from the Wharton School and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her parents are from Ghana, West Africa.
She gives TNJ.com the details about her business plans.
TNJ.com: Why did you co-found Joojos?
Ama Yawson: My husband and I co-founded Joojos in 2010 shortly after having our first son, Jojo. We really wanted beautiful high-quality, classic baby shoes and we could not find them in the marketplace. Joojos classic designs commemorate an era in which buying a baby’s first pair of shoes was an important milestone and people invested in beautiful high-quality shoes that they would later bronze. The shoes are made from Italian leather and they are partially handcrafted in Romania. They are meant to be handed down from from child to child. My second son, Miles, is currently wearing Jojo’s Joojos shoes and thereafter we will continue to hand them down. They are not intended to be thrown away after a season, like most clothes and shoes in the marketplace. Additionally, because both my husband and I are from Ghana, we do donate shoes to Ghana and other places in order to prevent the spread of foot-borne illnesses.
TNJ.com: How did you fund the company?
We bootstrapped and solicited from friends and family. It was not easy at all and it still is not easy. But we are making it happen.
TNJ.com: Please tell me more about your books?
AY: I initially wrote my first children’s book, “Sunne’s Gift,” after a horrifying experience at the barber shop with my big son, Jojo, when he was three. I asked the barber not to shave off all of his hair, but the barber then shaved off his hair. When I protested, the barber responded “You have a real ni**** right here. He is from the tribe. This is not pretty hair. This is the best cut for him.”
I was horrified and wanted to write a story that celebrates differences while honoring the kinky hair that most Africans possess.
I wrote “Sunne’s Gift” and did a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of books. The publication of that book put me on a path of working to create empowering multicultural stories for our children. I am now a full-time author, publisher, and education consultant through my company Milestales Publishing and Education Consulting. We currently have two books out and more are forthcoming.
I go to schools ranging from preschools to universities and conduct author visits, bullying prevention workshops, leadership programs, sexual responsibility programs, professional development programs, and much more. I also engage in cultural sensitivity training for companies. The goal of Milestales is to create and disseminate stories that are intellectually enriching and spiritually uplifting, stories that help us to soar to new heights individually and collectively.
TNJ.com: You are also an attorney. Why did you decide to pursue so many different areas?
AY: I am still an attorney and I incorporate legal research into my teaching. But I decided to leave corporate law because I felt that God was calling me to do more, be more, and to really become a force for change in the world. Jobs can be restricting. We often leave much of ourselves at home when we go into the office. Entrepreneurship pushes me to do more and be more and to bring every fiber of myself to my work. I engage in storytelling, singing, dancing, choreography, journalism, marketing creative writing, critical writing, as well as legal analysis on a weekly basis. It is both wonderful and challenging.
TNJ.com: Do you feel it is important for other African women to see your success?
AY: I think that it is important for all of us to share our successes with one another so that we can be inspired and really believe and see that anything and all things are possible. I think that it is also important for us to share resources with one another and to be sources of economic cooperation and moral support for one another.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest business lesson?
AY: Marketing and sales are the most important aspects of the business. That is my most important lesson. Most of us want to focus on the product, but we really should focus on finding our tribe of people who will love and support our products.
TNJ.com: What are your upcoming goals?
AY: My major goals are to continue to create empowering stories and to grow my client base in order to spread the messages. More specifically, I created a folkloric character for Kwanzaa called Kwanzaa Nana and the first book of the series is out. I’m working on publishing the rest of the series.
TNJ.com What do you love the most about what you do?
AY: I love having the opportunity to share more of myself with the world and the feeling that I am, step-by-step, helping to create the world that I want to live in and that I want my children and my children’s children to inherit.