Hello! Today’s blog post subject is one that is of utmost importance to us as small businesses with big dreams. Our guest is Meghan McCormick, a fabulous woman whose business helps us with our bookkeeping. Enjoy.
Ama Duncan (AD): Meghan! I’m so excited to have you here. Thank you for doing this with me.
Meghan McCormick (MM): Thank you so much for having me Ama.
AD: Your bio is very outstanding and I know that is just a little bit of who you are. So tell us who Meghan McCormick is.
MM: I would say I’m an entrepreneur. My whole life, I’ve been trying to create solutions to problems. I started really young in the early 2000’s with a non-profit around HIV/AIDS education and awareness as a high school student. I enjoy and get fulfilment from working through problems that are difficult to solve, chop it off bit by bit and at the end of the day bring meaningful change. The Entrepreneurial Spirit is a part of who I am in person.
AD: It’s interesting to know you started at a young age in school. What were some of the problems you solved that brought you fulfilment even at that time?
MM: I would say I grew up in a very affluent community where we weren’t really confronted by real problems every day. But I’ve always been somebody who is curious about things outside of my community. And so the problems that I was trying to solve growing up were really focused on how to pull people out of apathy and get them to use their resources and talents to understand that everyone doesn’t live the way they do and also using those resources and influence to make change.
In High school I became very involved in performing arts. I actually studied Theatre in College – long way from Theatre to Fintech. I started a Social Enterprise at my university campus because as someone who grew up in Theatre, I saw theatre as a very good place for building thinking skills, team work, collaboration, goals orientation, etc. If you know my team members, they would tell you I’m very strict on deadlines. I believe it all stems from my theatre background. So my first big entrepreneurial endeavour was in university, creating a production company that leverages the talents of university students. This was when I was studying in Georgetown University, we put on musical theatre performances that would generate revenue to be invested in musical art education. Before I got into this world of helping and working with entrepreneurs, I was very much focused around arts education and how I could use theatre for social change.
AD: That was very brilliant of you at such a young age. Now your social enterprise focuses on Africa, tell us how this started?
MM: I joined the Peace Corp as a volunteer after college and I had French language skills so it was very likely they were going to send me to West Africa. For the career path I was taking, I had interned at a Management Consulting Firm. And the kind of problems we got to solve included setting up regional areas of economic competitiveness; and I found it interesting. So I told myself If I had to work 80 hours a week, then it would have to be towards something that will have a meaningful impact. I knew I needed some real world experience and the firm was a really great place to work. In the last week of our internship I asked about the Peace Corps and they said sure! I ended up going to Guinea. I thought, OK I’m going to Guinea for 2 years and then come back to be a Management Consultant. When I started working in Guinea, I realized their assets are in stark contrast to the challenges they face. I wanted to help change that so I became very interested in issues of youth unemployment and entrepreneurship to help create jobs. West Africa is incredibly entrepreneurial. Ghana for instance has some of the highest rates of female entrepreneurs in the world but very low in terms of creating jobs. So that was the kind of problems I was most fascinated about solving and that’s how I ended up sticking around the region and it’s been 10 amazing years so far.
AD: Wow 10 years, that’s amazing! Now let’s talk about OZÉ. What inspired you to begin and how has the experience been for you in Africa?
MM: Everything tires back to Guinea. When I was volunteering there, I ended up starting the country’s first Business Accelerator and growing it to be one of the largest business accelerators in French-speaking Africa. Because of that, I worked with thousands of entrepreneurs. Time and time again, we would get to a point where they’d say ‘something is not working in my business’. And we’d ask the necessary questions and their response normally was “I think or I feel”… And I would draw their attention to the fact that they could know these things through their data. We realised we needed a tool to help these business owners digitize their data and present it back to them in a way that helped them to make decisions. I told myself this must exist already. The issues of small business owners keeping records is a global issue therefore there must be an appropriate technology tool. We searched but couldn’t find what we wanted so bit by bit we began to build what we wanted. That’s how I ended up in Ghana with about 26 entrepreneurs joining us for the first pilot. And they were using it and loving it and giving wonderful feedback about the application, not realizing that the magic was me taking down their data at the end of the day, staying on powerpoint and excel all night and then pushing it back to them. We’ve come a long way.
AD: OMG you were doing all the work at the backend! Describe how the journey has been.
MM: Hmm… As a leader, I would say the hardest thing for me has been learning to manage people whose jobs I can’t do. My leadership type has always been to not let someone do what I wouldn’t do. If it was difficult I would sit by you and we’d do it together but sitting by a developer for instance may just annoy them. Since I can’t write code, I don’t know how long something should take or even whether what we’re doing is even technologically possible or if the person just doesn’t have the right skills and capacity. So it’s not been easy changing my leadership strategy but we have put up some pretty strong leadership in place. It’s getting better. We have some great Fintech Companies who have come before us demonstrating a lot of success for their investors. Also, our first versions of OZÉ were buggy and we had to find a way to communicate that to customers while assuring them nothing is going to happen to their data.
AD: I can relate to the bit about not understanding some of the technical work that needs to be done, especially in the beginning. Meghan tell us please, how do you make book keeping easier for small business owners?
MM: If you are someone who feels like record keeping isn’t your strong suite, I would say you’re in very good hands because I built it for people like you. I’m also one of the people like you. The benefits of OZÉ are in two folds. You get to know your business and then make very good decisions about your business. When you keep records you do better in business.
Second thing is, when you’re doing better, you might say, OK now I want a loan or an investor. I’m growing today but I need money to grow faster or I need to buy raw materials in bulk. If you don’t have any financial records, nobody’s going to give you money. So by keeping records, you’re setting yourself up to do better tomorrow. And we make it as easy as possible to enter data in a few clicks, whether online or offline, helping you set reminders and those are a few things we do to make it easier. And I will say you’re the first to know this, this month we’ll be releasing payment features so you can actually collect payment from your customers through OZÉ.
AD: So cool! That will certainly make our work easier. Explain to us how easy it is to use the OZÉ App.
MM: OZÉ is designed to be as easy to use as WhatsApp. If you’re using an iPhone you go to App Store and if you’re using an Android you can go to Play Store to download the app. It takes less than 2 minutes to set up your business profile. You don’t need to present any formal documents. You don’t have to be only a formal business to use it as well. You can be a side hustler and use OZÉ too. And you can edit your input as well. We have customer support personnel in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi to speak to you. You can also contact an OZÉ Coach and we can share our tutorials, take you through step by step or invite you to training programs to make it easy if you need help with any process. For businesses that are active on OZÉ, after 90 days, you become eligible for a loan. And you don’t need collateral. You can do all this in the comfort of your home. For very active users it can be very instant. We make it easy so that people feel compelled to put themselves in the right place to be managing their business from a source of strength.
AD: With regards to training, are you planning on coming to Kumasi anytime soon?
MM: Since COVID-19 hit, we’ve been doing everything on Facebook Live and Zoom. We do have a fantastic business coach in Kumasi, Isaac Afenu. He’s been running around different Accelerators doing training programs. I come to Kumasi once in a quarter as well.
AD: Fab! What are some of your biggest achievements in this business?
MM: For me, our biggest achievements are the achievements of our customers. If they don’t succeed we don’t succeed. Their success stories mean a lot to us. We have almost 30,000 businesses using OZÉ and that’s great. And what’s even greater is when each of these successful entrepreneurs become loyal OZÉ customers and tell other entrepreneurs to manage their businesses on OZÉ.
AD: Meghan, I was wondering; is there an option for people to pay for the month via mobile money instead of directly paying in App Store or Play Store?
MM: For Android users, you can pay via mobile money but recently after Apple changed their policies, you can only pay through Apple pay for iPhone users. But if anyone is not comfortable, you can always reach out to the OZÉ team and we’ll find a mode of payment that works best for you.
AD: Wonderful. Before we wrap up, please complete the following with a short phrase or sentence:
a. If I could advise my younger self in one short sentence, I would say “make better relationships with your Professors”.
b. I am fabulous because “I do what makes me happy”.
c. One book that has greatly helped me in business is “99% Invisible podcast”.
AD: Thank you so much Meghan. Any last words for the fabulous business women in my community?
MM: I would say just do it. This is the best time to start a business if you haven’t already. Get your experience now and whether you’re now starting your business or already have, it’s not too late to start using OZÉ. Go for it and make sure you have the right place and support to do it.
AD: Thank you so much for making time with me Meghan. We wish you the very best in your business and all your endeavours.
MM: Of course, thank you so much. I was happy to.
Tell me, how was that? I hope that something in it spoke to you. Ladies and gentlemen I currently use OZÉ myself and it’s been very OK so far. Before, I was using a simpler app but to be honest it didn’t give me the functions that OZÉ provides me. For instance, at the end of every month I know my income, my expenses, how much I make in a day and I’m able to download it onto spreadsheets and send it to my Accountant and it makes life so easy. I’m able to send receipts, invoices, etc too. And you can put in your logo to have it look professional too. Click here to try OZÉ out.
Let me know your thoughts about this interview in the comments below as well. Fabulous Child of God, until I come your way again, take care of yourself.
Meghan McCormick is a systems thinker and strategist, passionate about designing solutions that bring real value to customers, corporations, and communities. She has spent her career focused geographically on African markets and functionally on innovation strategy.
She started her work as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in the Peace Corps in Guinea. During her service, she founded Guinea’s first business accelerator, Dare to Innovate, and scaled it to be French-speaking Africa’s most active small business accelerator.
Currently, Meghan is the Co-Founder & CEO of OZÉ, a fintech company that equips African entrepreneurs to make data-driven decisions to both improve their business performance and access capital. Outside of her entrepreneurial endeavors, Meghan worked as an Innovation Strategist at Doblin, the innovation unit of Monitor Deloitte.
Meghan has an MBA from MIT where she was a Legatum Fellow for Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School where she was a Cheng Fellow in the Social Innovation and Change Initiative and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow focused on West Africa.