After watching Arsenal beat Sunderland 3-1, I caught loyal Arsenal supporter Anthony Opoku-Owusu in a happy mood. This paved the way for an open and honest conversation about his journey from secondary school to being a building project site manager for one of the UK’s largest building developers and setting up his business – Young and Connected, and how a trip down Dalston market left a positive imprint on his life.
You probably can’t walk anywhere in London without seeing a new property development popping up; according to recent research which was conducted by Savills, residential property in the UK is worth up to £5.75 trillion. It makes perfect sense as to why investors and developers are capitalizing on the housing market boom.
At the age of 15, Anthony Opoku-Owusu started his journey into the property industry after a very mundane school work experience placement, “I realised I wasn’t a person that could sit in an office all day; printing and filing papers, sending emails and answering calls did not excite me. It was the worst two weeks of my life, so the first thing I did was book an appointment with the school career advisor.” After completing a career personality test, Anthony found out that he’d be happiest being a quantity surveyor – ‘ a professional that works in construction industry that keeps track of any variations to the contract that may affect costs and create reports to show profitability throughout the lifecycle of a building project.’
“If you can’t communicate with people, you can’t do the job. It’s all about communication, not just verbally, but also visually. There have been many times when I had to communicate with people, even when we don’t even speak the same language”.
Anthony points out that communication is an important aspect of any job; the way you speak; tone, clarity, and body language – expressing yourself clearly and efficiently is a must-have skill. Managing people from diverse backgrounds, gender, and age, Anthony has had no choice but to learn to communicate effectively on his construction site. “I manage people that are my father’s age, I’ve been doing my job for three years, and I have to tell people who have been doing their jobs for 20 years what to do. To get people to listen and do what you need is a skill in itself.”
Construction is Anthony’s passion and is something he thoroughly enjoys. He has ambitions to start his own property development business in Ghana within the next ten years. “I don’t want to work for someone for the rest of my life because I want to impact people’s lives in the way I feel I can help. My properties will be harvesting solar energy, to utilise the natural resource of sunlight that Ghana has in abundance; they will still need electricity, but it will be very minimal. These are all techniques the Western world are trying to implement but are unable to, due to the lack of natural resources.”
Anthony frequently visits Ghana, and it’s where his parents were born. This is one of the reasons why he wants to take his experience and build projects in his motherland. “Britain is my home, and so is Ghana. England is where I was born, where I grew up, and is what I know. Ghana is my home. It is my heritage, my family’s history, and where I’d like to be later on in life.”
Outside property, Anthony has another business – Young and Connected, which is an event networking company that creates opportunities for young professionals to meet other professionals from similar and different industries. “We want people to connect with one another within and outside their industry – we want to broaden the scope of our attendees – both professionals and businesses – and connect people who offer services that you may not have, but need.”
We all have a purpose in life; I was intrigued to find out what’s Anthony’s? “With the money I earn from my businesses I want to set up a start-up funding project. I want to offer people from disadvantaged backgrounds seed money for their start-ups. On the condition that once they become financially sound, they have to reinvest that money to another start-up who was once in the same position as they were in; to continue the cycle.”
Leaving a legacy is important to Anthony, he points out that many talented and intelligent individuals lack support, and he wants to put himself in a position where he can help and influence them to build sustainable businesses.
Anthony rolled back to a few years and told me about an experience he faced during his gap year at University while working for a company that managed buildings. “I was walking with a pupil on work experience down Dalston market, in Hackney, and I couldn’t hear what he was saying, so I bent down to talk to him. A shop owner of one the buildings the company managed saw this, walked up to me and said – ‘Why are you bending down to talk to him? Stand with your back straight; you’re a king!’ I tried to explain to the shopkeeper that I’m a lot taller than the pupil and I can’t hear him, but he didn’t accept my reason. He replied, no! Do not lower yourself, rise and stand tall, so he’ll learn to grow and stand tall too!”
Anthony learned a profound lesson that day and is something he lives by daily. “It works both ways – for me to progress and achieve – I’ll have to lift myself to each person I’m around, successful or not so they too can lift themselves.”
You can find out more about young and connected and their next networking event by visiting www.youngnconnected.com
Subject – Anthony Opoku-Owusu
Photographer & Writer – Kofi Dwaah