Author Archives: KimShala Hibbert
Meet Philip Obeng-Owusu, Founder and Distributor of GT African Trading LLC products. The GT African Trading LLC storefront is located at 3123 Church Ave, in Brooklyn, New York. You can also find the GT product-line in stores nationally, internationally, and online.
GT African Trading LLC is the home of the healing GT Moringa Bitters, the powerful GT Moringa Tonic, the soothing GT African Shea Butter, and many more popular, natural, and rich African products that will change your life.
GT African Trading LLC has been a client of Ashalla Design Shop for over a decade now, and we want to highlight the story behind this incredible brand. Mr. Philip Obeng-Owusu (pictured above) from Ghana, started as a street vendor in 2001 selling a few simple yet essential products from his homeland. He sold these products out of a shopping cart along the streets of Brooklyn, NY during his lunch hour (Philip worked full time as a home care attendant). Philip’s business and marketing sense built out not only a successful business model that allowed for doubling, then tripling, then quadrupling of sales; but a company brand that has grown manifolds into a storefront, name brand recognition, and national and international distribution and sales of the GT brand product-line.
Working closely with Philip for so many years, we at Ashalla noticed a few patterns in his marketing approach that we have found to be powerful tools and techniques for any business to understand and follow. Together we’ve discussed marketing strategies and concepts that have prepared the brand and its products for a loyal following, continued growth, room for innovate, and most importantly, trusted and quality products that promote herbal therapy.
Philip knows his customers. Identifying the right target market can often be the difference between success and failure for new products.
As stated earlier, Philip pushed his shopping cart down Nostrand Avenue and sold raw all-natural black soap and raw all-natural blocks of shea butter during rush hour. He observed that the products were selling every time he used his lunch break to do this, so he called into work one morning and asked for three days off … then 2 weeks off. He made more money in those two weeks than he had been making at his day job for the same time. Needless to say, he never went back to that day job. Phillip bought a van, parked it on Church Avenue, and he sold the items out of the van for 2 years. Facing a lot of adversities, Philip decided it was time to get his business registered at City Hall. He called the business “God’s Time” hence the name GT African Trading LLC.
With a business name and business profits, Philip started looking for a place to sell his products and was able to rent a small nook next to a hair salon on Church Avenue (not too far from where he used to park his van). Philip listened to his customers’ interests, needs, and requests. The products sold and the variety of selections grew. GT African Trading LLC had what the people wanted.
Eventually, Philip was able to start selling his own products under the GT brand name. The first product launched was a whipped and scented Shea Butter in 2009. This was during the same time that I, KimShala Hibbert, the founder and creative director for Ashalla Design Shop, coincidentally walked over to the nook of a storefront and introduced myself and my branding design service offerings to Philip. I designed the initial labels for several products (GT Shea Butter, GT Moringa Balm, GT Novah Cream, and the GT Hair Fertilizer). Later the next year, Philip expanded his company into a much larger storefront space. GT brought something new to the market in a fresh way with a logo, stand-out packaging and brand recognition.
Branding your product means creating a name, logo, slogan or anything else that creates a strong association with your product or company. This is used to create trust and loyalty which contributes to repeat sales and word-of-mouth advertising. That is why budding businesses need to create attention-grabbing packaging that effectively sells your product. Most purchase decisions are made in a few seconds, so if your package doesn’t quickly communicate your product’s benefits, your sales will not go well.
PLAN YOUR WORK … WORK YOUR PLAN:
Know when to plan, what ingredients are needed in your plan, and the steps needed to implement that plan keeps your business grounded in the present while still achieving a goal-oriented mindset for success. You are not just looking for today’s dollar, but setting forth the motion toward a long-term vision. It could be your business plan, but it should also be your marketing plan, and your product launching plan, etc.
Certainly, plan deviation is going to happen, and sometimes it is best. For example, when it comes to protecting your new recipe, brand logo or t-shirt design with copyrighting, trademark, and patent laws. Reaching larger scale markets often requires unforeseen requirements. Some examples of this may include becoming certified, acquiring the Nutrition Fact Labels, or obtaining barcodes. Philip planned on product distribution in national and international markets; and securing these compliances requires some patience. In time, the product labels were properly protected and appropriately representing the GT brand which is currently available on Amazon, the largest US internet-based company.
When introducing your product, you want to generate quick sales because building a history of sales, even just in one or two outlets, helps you convince other sales outlets to carry your product. But once you start selling, you need to commit yourself to continually growing your sales. Stores, catalogs, reps and distributors look for hot, up-and-coming products, and if your sales are always growing, you will have a much easier time expanding your sales network. Having a written marketing plan in place that is being implemented and reviewed often will result in a more productive next season. Additionally, the plan will become more refined and your systems will become effective and efficient.
We, at Ashalla Design Shop, cherish our relationships with our clients, and this month we are especially proud of the results seen by Philip Obeng-Owusu of GT African Trading LLC.
Together we have innovated, empowered, and accomplished.
If you need to elevate your budding business, schedule a call and see if our services are right for you. If you know you’re ready, you can take the first step and schedule a consultation to get started.
*photography of Mr. Philip Obeng-Owusu by Tiffany Farrell. Ms. Farrell also interviewed and assisted in writing article.
LeRoy Winbush (1915-2007)
LeRoy Winbush was a great design pioneer who would open the door for many other black designers to follow. Mr. Winbush started out designing signage, murals and flyers for the Regal Theater. There he met various performers including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Music had a great impact on his work and he later designed album covers for the Ramsey Lewis Trio and many other groups who were signed to Mercury Records. He was the first black member of the Art Directors Club of Chicago. Five years after he was accepted he became the president of the organization. He was the art director for all of the Goldblatt’s stores and he also became a very accomplished airbrush illustrator.
Winbush eventually founded his own firm called Winbush Associates. The name was later changed to Winbush Design. He was also the art director for Johnson Publishing where he designed layouts for magazines including Ebony and Jet. At one point he also taught visual communications at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and typography at Columbia College Chicago. Mr. Winbush had discovered other outlets for his design expertise which included exhibit design. Winbush helped design the Illinois’s exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. This exhibit included Abraham Lincoln, which was the prototype for Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. Winbush believed that he could use design as a tool to help the black community. The AIGA national board refers to Winbush as being a great motivator for designers of color. LeRoy Winbush won the 2008 AIGA medal, which only reflects his extraordinary work.
Norma Merrick Sklarek (1928-2012)
Norma Sklarek was an architect whose work was an inspiration to many. She was the first licensed architect African- American woman in the country. She was the first black woman to pass the New York state exam in 1954 and her license in California in 1962. Ms. Sklarek had the honor of being elected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Norma Sklarek’s journey to the top was not easy and she was often faced with discrimination. Despite her hardships Ms. Sklarek persevered. She worked at prominent design firms including Gruen and Associates in Los Angeles, Welton Becket Associates in Santa Monica and the Jerde Partnership in Venice.
Ms. Sklarek helped produce many landmarks including Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport, the American Embassy in Tokyo, the California Mart, Pacific Design Center, Fox Hills Mall, San Bernardino City Hall, and the Leo Baeck Temple. Norma Sklarek’s work was so highly appreciated that Howard University offered her an Architectural Scholarship Award.
Sylvia Harris (1953-2011)
Design strategist, Sylvia Harris, partnered with high-profile clients—in business, nonprofit and government—to yield rewarding projects and a life’s work dedicated to removing barriers by ensuring that public information systems are accessible to everyone. Throughout her life she had the opportunity to work in various fields. She was the former director on the AIGA national board and the principal of Citizen Research & Design. She also played a role on the U.S. Postal Service’s Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee and taught design to students at both Purchase College, the State University of New York and the graduate graphic design program at Yale.
Harris also founded her own firm in 1994, Sylvia Harris, LLC, where she gives advice to institutional clients on the design of public information systems. She is best known for her work in Central Park Zoo in NY, her participation in the 2000 U.S census and her iconic stamps at the post office. Ms. Harris’ work has often been praised as a result of good design. Her work has influenced many people including her colleagues and students and will never be forgotten.
Do you know of other females who have made significant contribution to the field of design? Who are they? What have they done?
Georg Olden (1920-1975)
Meet one of the first African Americans in the graphic design industry. Olden pioneered the field of broadcast graphics in 1945 as the head of on air promotions at CBS. He supervised the identity development of programs such as I Love Lucy, Lassie, and Gunsmoke; and helped produce the vote-tally scoreboard used for the first televised presidential election returns in 1952.
In 1963, he became the first person of African decent to design a US postage stamp, a chain-commemorated the 100th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation. Olden is also famous for designing the Clio statuette and winning seven Clio awards. Olden paved the way for increased acceptance of and opportunities for black American’s in the creative industry.
Join Ashalla every week throughout the month of February as we celebrate the great achievements of our past in preparation for moving forward by posting tributes on our Facebook Page and on this Blog.
Kerri Dixon came to our studio in December 2013 upon her graduation, seeking a real world design internship. We were excited to accept her as a new member of the team in early January 2014.
Internships are one of the most important stages in education and entering the job market. Not unlike classes at school, internships are education. Not only will you learn handy skills, such as how to run certain computer software or how to improve artistic talent, there are essential lessons you will acquire: ones that will let you advance in your chosen field, academically and professionally.
Kerri graduated from Andrews University with a Bachelors of Science in Graphic Design. She has an artistic eye and a voice of good judgement. As a skilled graphic artist who has worked alongside her father in his print shop for many years, she understands the real world demands for professional graphic designers. Not only does she own her craft as a designer, she also possesses the refinement of the fine artist that she is, with disciplines in drawing, sculpting, and painting.
Kerri Dixon is one true talent, and we are happy to have her on our team.
Circle of Sisters (COS) is the largest expo for women of color in New York City. Founded in 1998 and sponsored by WBLS-FM, WLIB – AM and YMF Media, COS hosts a variety of panel discussions, seminars, inspirational services, R&B and gospel concerts and a fashion show in addition to over 200 vendors and small businesses selling unique items and services all weekend. This expo is accented by an avalanche of captivating elements such as fabulous shopping and food tasting with some of today’s top chefs at the Food Pavilion and youth activities including lessons in the arts and dance at the Children’s Pavilion.
Each year, participants can attend informative and empowering panel discussions led by authors, field experts, political figures and some of the biggest names in entertainment. In it’s fifteen years of operation, COS has welcomed names such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Susan Taylor, Mayor Cory Booker, Terry McMillian, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Steve Harvey and the sounds of Faith Evans, Eric Benet, Fantasia, Tank, Jennifer Hudson, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Bell Biv Devoe, Big Daddy Kane and Gospel powerhouses to bring the message home like Smokie Norful, Karen Clark Sheard, Kiki Sheard, Vickie Winans, Tye Tribbett, Deitrick Haddon and more.
Circle of Sisters is back and promises to be bigger and better than ever before! Join us on October 19th and 20th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City for Circle of Sisters 2013.
WBLS (107.5 FM) is the premiere African American Radio Stations in the New York City area, hosting top rated shows such as The Steve Harvey Morning Show, Middays with Shaila, Afternoons with Jeff Foxx, The Quiet Storm with Lenny Green and more. WLIB (1190 AM) is the powerhouse 24-hour Gospel, Praise, and Inspiration station, featuring on-air talent that includes Yolanda Adams, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Donnie McClurkin, Morgan Dukes and more.