When Elom Ladjebo arrived at the Africa Mercy, she was excited and hopeful. She was elated when Mercy Ships provided a free surgery to remove the tumor from her neck – the deformity that had branded her as a social outcast. But when she returned home, reality met her. She felt tired and defeated when she realized that she had no money, and her business was struggling.
Elom operated a small business in the Grand Market in Lomé, selling clothes and shoes at a discount. She bought clearance merchandise from large vendors and then sold the discounted clothes to people shopping in the market.
When Elom came to Mercy Ships, it was a gift from God to receive surgery, freeing her from ridicule and shame. However, the gift was a double-edged sword. Being pulled away from her shop for such a substantial time resulted in plummeting sales and zero income.
She returned to Mercy Ships for a second operation and, in the interim, had her first meeting with her micro loan group where she need that this opportunity would help her get back on her feet after surgery. “We discussed our ideas. Each of us has dreams or great business ideas. I want to move my shop to a better location so I can charge more for the clothes,” Elom said. “It was helpful to talk about my thoughts with other people who are like me… who want to succeed.”
Elom’s shop in the market was in a very challenging location. The Grand Market in Lomé is littered with people shouting prices or shoving merchandise in your face. It’s a very aggressive place to sell goods. The tumor on her throat was painful, and it prevented her from shouting at customers. She wanted to move her shop to another location where selling merchandise was not dependent on her vocal cords.
“Before, I had no skill. Now I know that this venture was for me. I named my store ‘Assia Bobo’ which means ‘Everything Is Cheap.’ That way if you are rich you can buy here, and if you are poor you can buy here,” Elom says.