You can’t really fight what you’re called to do, can you?
Kenneth Agyapong Jr, who some may know as Kenny, or Kenny Agy, like most of us, started off uncertain of what it is that he wanted to do. Little did he know he was preparing himself for his purpose.
Kenny started his 1st job, well technically his 2nd job, because he recalls working at Duane Reade a successful drugstore chain in metropolitan New York that carries an assortment of pharmacy items as well as vitamins, nutritional products, cosmetics, and more. He worked there for 3 days then quit because he was asked to clean the toilets. That was something he wasn’t willing to do. In 2008 as a High School student he began working for Whole Foods Market an American supermarket chain, which was his first actual long-term job. He began as a bagger and gradually moved up the chain.
Member of Ghana’s Parliament Honorable Kenneth Agyapong Sen. was trying to convince his son to make the move to Ghana. His father had laid a foundation of a growing media business, but Kenny was still in the United States, climbing up the ladder at Whole Foods. He moved from bagger to supervisor. When attending graduate school he worked at one of the regional offices and eventually became a buyer. He was negotiating with different companies, trying to get the lowest price for the products. He ended his career at Whole Foods Market in 2014.
Kenny attended Utica College in Syracuse New York for his undergraduate program, and Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island for his Masters. Kenny continued denying his father’s offer to move to Ghana to work for him. While at Johnson and Wales he witnessed a high population of Chinese students at his school, and about five of them told him they were moving to Ghana after graduation. Kenny shared this information with his father, who was not surprised. His father then told him that a lot of them move to Ghana, to help their parents’ businesses that happened to be located in Ghana.
“Wow! That doesn’t even make sense. They’re not Ghanaian or anything and they’re moving out there”, he thought. After completing his graduate program, he decided to “give Ghana a try.” He moved to Ghana and began working at both his father’s companies: the cold store, which is like a big refrigerator system, and also the media company Ken City.
Today, Kenny still works at his dad’s media company, Ken City media. He is the general manager of both radio Omann and Ashh radio and the director of Net2 TV. Just because he carries his father’s name should not imply that it came easy for him. Kenny shared that he had to work hard, and prove himself before he became the general manager of Ken City media. He playfully said, “I was ready to work, anything but cleaning toilets”. After exploring Ghana for himself he thought to invite some friends to come to Ghana for a vacation.
In December of 2014, he invited about 15 people to Ghana.
“They thought I was joking, and only 5 came.”
It was evident that his friends had a good time; the next year he invited more friends.
“This time, about 15-to-25 people came, and I was like oh wow people keep coming.”
Kenny sure has discernment for a good business idea. Along with his friend Abdul Abdullah, they decided to turn this invitation to Ghana as a Travel and Tour Company. That was the birth of LifeinGh.com. The goal of LifeinGh is to give the people a different experience.
“Usually when you go on a tour they only show you the nice places, we want to show people places the common person would go too. Not just Accra mall, we take people to Purple Park, the street food area, not just the bourgeoisie fancy areas.”
I asked Kenny why was this essential to him, why is it a necessity to show the people every aspect of Ghana. He recalled a time when he was he in the 2nd grade in 1997. He referred to it as something he will never forget.
“Oscar Rodriguez he called me an African booty scratcher, and that really hurt my feelings.”
The funny thing is that so many Africans can relate to that moment when one of your classmates thought the best insult was to call you an African booty scratcher. I’m not sure if most people reaction was like Kenny’s, but I am sure that if it wasn’t, you wish it were.
“I got really upset, and I hit him. My mom had to come to school to come get me.” Although we laughed when he shared that moment, it contained a deeper sentiment. We discussed how the media has presented Africa and has put a bright spotlight on deficient parts of Africa, alluding that is all African nations have to offer. This has polluted the minds of the people who have no clue about the continent, and the sole provider of source has been these infomercials and textbooks. Events like that from his childhood is what triggered “Things they don’t want you to see”.
They take people to settings they don’t expect to see: like million dollar homes. Unfortunately, some people only think people live in huts because that is what they’re exposed to.
I went back to our previous discussion about when he invited his friends over to Ghana, I wanted to know if he invited a diverse group to come and witness the beauty of Ghana. He explained that he invited not only his Ghanaian friends, but also a very diverse group: friends from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, America, Jamaicans, and Trinidad and other cultures. He took them to the Elmina Castle because he felt that history was in Ghana that can possibly connect with other cultures.
Through our discussion about the tour, he provided some remarkable historical stories that were left out of my textbooks; which highlights how vital going back and exploring Ghana is. It was obvious that his friends felt at home once they came to Ghana.
“They fall in love with the food, and the spices”. Inviting his friend led to a snowball effect. Kenny once invited his friend Terry who is also his fraternity brother to Ghana. They are members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Terry then invited other brothers of Phi Beta Sigma, including past Presidents. Incidentally, Phi Beta Sigma is the brotherhood of Ghana’s very own first President and activist Kwame Nkrumah. This fact has been unknown to many people. With the help of Terry, this feature went into the museum making the brotherhood that President Nkrumah was a part of, public.
I wondered if Kenny had a specific challenge that if he achieved or overcame, would make him content; but he simply answered, “I don’t think I would ever be content”. He shared a story about his Jamaican teacher who once told him when she first came from Jamaica to America most people didn’t care about anything relating to Jamaica. She tried to get people to listen to reggae, and they would have negative things to say, but right now, she sees everyone enjoying reggae music. He further on went to compare it to Afrobeats and how most people didn’t want to listen to African music, but now people all over the world are gravitating to African music. He admitted that it is a challenge because people ask him questions like, “Will I get sick? Will I get robbed?” so he said that it’s a challenge trying to get people to not be afraid, and getting them out of their comfort zone. The goal of LifeinGh is to give people the whole African experience within 8 days. They focus on the 3 different regions; the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Eastern Regions. Eventually, their goal is to explore the other regions.
I questioned why is it hard for us to go back home, and enjoy our country and take it for what it is. And how, and where did he find the courage to just pick up and leave, his replied:
“I spent 25 years in America before going back, people shouldn’t be ashamed of where they come from instead, we should embrace where we come from, and it’ll be a trickle effect.”
We went back to life as a general manager at Ken City media. I asked him if it was difficult adapting to the media business. He said no; although his major was Human Resource in undergrad he learned a lot about media.
“Ironically all my elective classes were in media, I knew bits and pieces of the job.”
You’d think that his plate would be full, but nope Kenny job is never done: he shared that he, along with others are organizing an event on the 29th of December 2017 called Afrochella. It’s going to be a huge festival, with multiple artists. There’s more. He’s also a part of the Big Five entertainment, a group of five organizations invested in serving as a bridge for African cultural experiences in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. They are well known for throwing some of the largest events that sell out and becomes the talk of the town. They hosted events like “Ivory in the City”, “Ghana Made” and “Best of Africa”, where proceeds went to “1000 Backpacks for Ghana”.
I asked him if he felt overwhelmed and his answer, which, most humans should follow is,
“Do something that you like, it is more meaningful. There are 24 hours in a day. You [need to] make the best of it”
He elaborated more on why he loves what he does,
“I love people, I like having fun.”
I slightly joked around because every joke has some truth to it, and told Kenny that he was destined to be a businessman, and after saying that he shared another story. Once upon a time, he was a baker. Yes, he would wake up at 4 am to bake cookies, take it to school and sell them. To avoid getting in trouble he would make sure to give the principal some for free. Being a promoter started in his undergraduate years at Utica. He and his friends Kojo, Dan, and the two Jeffs called themselves “High Class entertainment.” They hosted parties right in their dorm rooms. Instead of having flyers with celebrities who were never there the flyer would have no images. This small group that was created to just bring some fun to Utica wound up hosting events that brought artists like Trey Songz, Day 26, Fabolous, and Kid Ink.
Kenny was kind enough to share a gem that his mother told him and that he lives by:
“You can’t live in this world by yourself.”
You might’ve read that quote, and didn’t find anything valuable about it. If so, go back and read it again. With Kenny finding success, I asked him if he has been a guide to others, and that is when he shared that saying with me. He said he shares the knowledge that he has, and if someone is starting a business he knows nothing about, he likes to connect them to someone that might have the answers or can be of better help. He joked that some Ghanaians have a PhD mentality: “pull him down mentality.” Sadly, he felt like some Ghanaians have this mentality and we don’t like to help one another and to see each other reach success. With that being said he wants to do the opposite.
My final question for Kenny was to find out his goal.
“To be better than my Dad.”
The Honorable Agyepong started out from small beginnings selling P.K gum and rub to now having a Media Company with both radio stations being in the Top 3 and TV Station Net 2 in the Top 10, and the National Agenda Newspaper. “If I do anything less than my father, I failed.”
Meeting Kenny was a pleasure; to see someone using their passion to bring joy to others. He went from being the kid that Oscar called an African Booty scratcher, to a growing successful African entrepreneur, as well as a husband and father to 2 children.
“Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal away your joy and keeps you busy doing nothing”, he concluded.
Hearing his journey so far helped me realize the importance of finding one’s purpose, and use that to help you soar. Importantly don’t be afraid to go back whether it’s for a week, month, or even years. I came across a quote that that goes like,
“It does not matter how long you spend on the earth, how much money you have gathered or how much attention you have received. It is the amount of positive vibration you have radiated in life that matters.”
Mr Kenneth Agyapong Jr. is definitely painting NYC and Ghana with nothing but positive vibration. I am certain he has more things loading.
WRITER: Constance Boakye