Kevin Okyere, BS Accounting ’05 and CEO of Ghana’s Springfield Group, remembers being entrepreneurial-minded since he was a child, when he would sell iced sachets of water to football (soccer) fans outside of Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, Ghana.
“There wasn’t one great moment of realization...I guess that was my first time spotting a gap in a market and proceeding to fill it,” he says.
His father, who started as a tailor for the military, and later owned one of the largest road and building construction companies in Ghana, served as an inspiration for Okyere. “I grew up watching him run several businesses and generate enough wealth to comfortably take care of our very large family. I have 28 siblings. It felt quite natural to me to follow in his entrepreneurial path,” he says.
As an accounting student at George Mason University’s School of Business, he held various positions with companies in sectors like banking, health care, satellite radio, and security. He graduated with a wealth of experience and skills, which he used to study the Ghanaian market to identify potential opportunities.
“In the course of my market analysis, I realized that there was a gap in the international call aspect of the budding telecommunications industry. Armed with this information, I packed up my things and moved to Ghana,” Okyere says, adding that he knew he would always return there.”
“Home is where the heart is. Ghana is home for me and I always intended to return to Ghana,” he says. “I knew I could make a world of difference by establishing companies that will provide jobs and business opportunities for the youth and contribute towards growing the economy.”
Upon his return, he established Westland Alliance Ltd, a telecoms company that provided international call routing services for the purposes of connecting international calls to and from Ghana to the United States, the UK, and the rest of the world.
Okyere ran Westland Alliance for three years before moving on to the “budding downstream petroleum subsector.” He founded Springfield in March 2008 after seeing a gap in the industry, where there was little involvement from private Ghanaian companies in oil and gas.
“I began my entry into oil and gas by exploring the opportunity of constructing storage tanks for petroleum products. In the process, I realized that it would be more feasible and definitely more profitable to also import and distribute petroleum products, which would then be stored in our tank farms prior to distribution. This would give the opportunity to participate across the value chain of the oil and gas business,” he says.
From there, the company became licensed as a bulk distribution company for the import and distribution of petroleum products. Springfield is also involved with the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry, licensing their first asset (West Cape Three Points Block 2) from the government of Ghana in 2016. His new goal is to be the founder and CEO of the first wholly owned Ghanaian company to operate a producing oil block in Ghana.
Okyere describes his typical day as a CEO as “fast-paced and intense,” starting at 5 a.m. He starts the day with prayer and exercise, allowing him to focus on the day ahead. He says his healthy lifestyle helps keep his energy up, which is needed for a long day of meetings and oftentimes travel. When he’s not traveling or attending a business dinner, Okyere enjoys having dinner and quality time at home with his family.
He advises young professionals aspiring to be entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and not give up. “Challenges are not showstoppers,” he says, “they make you better, stronger, and more resilient.”