A Quest to Empower Africa Through Art, Communications and Medicine
Before Happy Bruce became a graduate intern at the Mastercard Foundation and Founder of Afriart Central Hub (which deals in artworks like pencil arts, paintings, sculpture), Happy aspired to be a surgeon. She never saw herself as an artist or an entrepreneur. Upon completion of her high school education, she started looking into avenues to help fund her university education. A recommendation from a friend led her to apply to become a Mastercard Foundation Scholar at CAMFED Ghana. She succeeded and in 2015, began her degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences at the University of Cape Coast.
While in school, Happy began exploring other opportunities to earn extra income to support herself and her family. She started working with a local online marketing firm as a customer service representative. This was a defining moment in Happy’s life as it allowed her to develop her leadership skills through frequent interaction with clients. The experience ignited a desire in Happy to pursue a career in public relations.
It was also in university that Happy discovered her love for art. She began dabbling in art as a hobby and would often give out free portraits. When she learned about the Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund (SEF), she saw an opportunity to legitimize her business and secure funding. The Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund (SEF) was launched in 2018 by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program to help incubate Scholar and alumni-led social enterprises. The SEF was also intended to support postgraduation transitions to work, provide a platform for giving back to communities, and offer an experiential learning opportunity for applying transformative leadership skills and mindsets.
“We had a weeklong boot camp where we were trained on business financing, start-ups management etc. after which participants pitched to judges in order to determine their eligibility for funding. In the ensuing weeks, we were given feedback on whether or not we had been successful” Happy says.
Happy was one of two winners from Ghana selected to receive funding from the Scholar Entrepreneurship Fund (SEF). “Winners received the first tranche of funds and were advised to put it in business registration and procuring tools. The next tranche of funds was disbursed depending on the performance of the business,” Happy explained. To meet demand and scale-up, Happy partnered with other artists to complete huge contracts and is currently training five proteges to master their craft and support with the workload. These include a contract to produce over 200 acrylic paintings on round neck shirts, dungarees, Lacoste shirts and pillow cases, and a request for canvas paintings from a client in Cote d’ Ivoire.
Happy envisions opening a multipurpose art center — in the future — to professionally train aspiring artists, school leavers and dropouts who are interested in learning a skill and transforming it into a business or alternate source of livelihood in the arts industry. Happy hopes to showcase and provide a market not just for her artwork, but also that of other artists locally and internationally.
In 2020, Happy received her certification to practice as a medical laboratory scientist. Though not actively practicing, she maintains her deep love for the sciences and hopes to return to the field someday, hopefully combining it with her expertise in communications and art to empower the society around her. One of the ways she plans to do this is by channelling her artwork into the medical space by sending canvasses to bedridden patients who can use them to create artworks to be sold to support their medical bills.
“I want to say a big thank you to the Foundation because not only was I supported to further my education; I have benefitted immensely from the personal development programs, resources such as the Baobab platform, the Scholars and alumni network, leadership and entrepreneurship opportunities and enabling me to commit to giving back to my community” she, added.
Happy has a deep appreciation for the Mastercard Foundation. She attributes a lot of her success to the support given to her by the Foundation not just with her education, but also her transition to dignified and fulfilling work. As a person passionate about entrepreneurship here are words of advice from Happy to fellow and aspiring entrepreneurs.
“My advice to every aspiring entrepreneur out there is to invest time, passion and effort into any venture they wish to establish. If certain areas fail, don’t write off your plans, get back on your feet. Go all out for opportunities that may come your way and leave no room to quit. Failure has always proven to be a learning experience, quitting hasn’t.”