The impulse to give something back runs thick in Francois Auguston’s bloodline. Since moving to Plano from Ghana in the late-1980s, his family has made it something of an annual tradition to collect and send container loads of supplies for needy schoolchildren. Now Francois is taking the family’s philanthropy to another level through African Accents, a mutually beneficial business that seeks to connect remote Ghanaian artisans with DFW customers.
The business runs principally through a website and brick-and-mortar location at Marketplace Boutiques, 8300 Preston Road, in Plano. But African Accents was a long time in incubation. A high school business teacher by trade, Francois says it was during his time studying business and management at Texas Tech University in Lubbock that the idea was seeded.
Francois takes inspiration from his childhood growing up in Ghana. His uncle was an artist, and he himself briefly learned an artisan trade before moving to the United States at age 12.
“As a kid, I was learning under an artist who used to paint on cars,” Francois says. “They don’t really do that here, but I guess it’s kinda like bumper stickers. Over there, though, people have them painted on: a saying, a Bible verse, that sort of thing.”
The selection of individually crafted items offered by African Accents is vast and includes women’s purses, backpacks, clothing, paintings, wood carvings and jewelry. Many incorporate the unique designs of Kente cloth—a bright smorgasbord of colourful interwoven fabric indigenous to South Ghana and adopted across West Africa.
“I hatched the idea back in college and last year, in June, I went to Ghana to start the idea,” explains the amiable 40-year-old. “Originally it was just for art carvings but now it also involves clothing, shoes, bags, paintings, everything. All are handmade by individual vendors.”
For this venture, his cousin is his point man in Ghana. Some of the items they have curated are available from stock. But there are also options to have products custom-made.
“My cousin who lives over there helps find the vendors so we get the highest quality products. We even buy all the materials ourselves before supplying the craftsmen to carry out the orders.”
“I still remember when I lived there. The carvers have a really good skill set for what they do. Whether they’re painters, carvers, tailors, etc. But there’s not a customer base. Ghana is not a huge tourist attraction or destination. They live week to week. There’s not a big employment structure. I felt this would be a way to help some of them get a consistent source of income. I can provide customers they can’t reach.”
The sights, sounds and experiences of his childhood growing up in Kumasi, in the Ashanti region of Ghana, inspired a will to get involved in an endeavour that could spur cross-cultural exchange.African Accents Website >