Fomba Trawally has proven to be a trailblazing entrepreneur after starting a street vendor business that fetched him millions of dollars in two decades. Trawally was born in 1971 in Liberia with no silver spoon and had only his mother, who was toiling to feed and send her children to school. He soon set off to start his formal education at Voinjama Public School in 1975 and by 1981, he was also enrolled in the Kakata Islamic Training School.
Before Trawally could set foot on a college, he lost his mother who was his source of hope in the 1980s. Being the firstborn of his family, he had to take responsibility for his younger siblings. Trawally engaged in petty trades to get by daily. Most times, he would resort to engaging in tough jobs just to make some cash.
The liberian war inspiration
Surviving became more severe when the Liberian war started in 1989, Trawally had no option but to seek refuge in Gambia with his siblings. Even as a refugee, with his high entrepreneurial spirit, Trawally engaged in minor businesses that fetched him money. After peace was restored in Liberia, he decided to travel back to his base in Monrovia in 1991.
Trawally had saved up to $25 in Gambia and while seeking a means of survival yet again, decided to start a flip-flops business but he lacked the funds. Trawally later came up with a total sum of $145, which he invested in the business. Trawally explained the reason for his choice of business, he said,
“When the war took place people had to be displaced from another point to another point, so in the process of that, they didn’t take their shoes and they walked with bare feet. And the $200 that I brought from Gambia, I decided to invest that into the slippers.”
Launching his business
Fomba Trawally started importing cheap flip-flops and shoes which he would sell to people that lost their belongings as a result of the war. At first, the sales of the flip-flops were moving at a gradual pace but after a couple of days, he started making tremendous sales.
Trawally made quick returns and established his business in 1992, which he named Kumba Beindu and Sons, as a tribute to his late mother. It took just a year for Trawally’s company to amass a value of $3,000. By 2005, Trawally had established three more retail stores, where he sold paper products and cosmetics that were imported from countries where he already had strong networks.
Trawally did not set limits to his dreams. In 2010, he ventured into transitioning from an importer to a manufacturer of those products. In Trawally’s words, “I figured out that our population is about four million. Out of the four million, no one is producing paper. Everybody is going out to bring the paper to import. Even if two million people buy from me every day, I feel that it’s something that’ll grow the economy of this country.”
The birth of a homegrown manufacturing company
In 2010, Trawally established his new venture which he named the National Toiletries Incorporated. Trawally’s new company was recognised as Liberia’s first paper and toiletry products manufacturing factory. By 2013, his company was producing four different kinds of products, which were baby diapers, paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper.
Trawally’s company grew larger by the day and supplied its products to over 1,500 businesses in Liberia. It also expanded its services to neighbouring countries like Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea. Hs achievements have thus attracted recognition from diverse countries.
These successes have still not curbed the raging fire in Fomba Trawally, as the entrepreneur still has his sight set on reaching other parts of the world. In his words, ” I would like to see myself outside of the country. I want to get to other countries in Africa and export to Europe and American markets. That is my dream”.
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