Online entrepreneur by day and Top Shelf Liquor store clerk by night may sound like an odd mix, but that’s how Cornell University graduate Nii Andrews ’08 makes a living.
Andrews started an online business, GhanaRemit, which aims to give Ghanians and U.S. citizens the opportunity to transfer money to their relatives or business partners at affordable rates. Not only will he help people with the service, but he plans to send proceeds to Ghanian citizens.
Staff Writer Thad Komorowski spoke with Andrews about why he wanted to start up an online business and send proceeds to Ghana.
Thad Komorowski: Where are you from originally, and what did you study at Cornell?
Nii Andrews: I’m from Ghana; I lived there from 1994 to 2002. I came from New York City to Ithaca to study applied economics and management at Cornell and graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
TK: How did you end up working at Top Shelf?
NA: The owner, Peter Ingrassia, is a good friend of mine. We used to play soccer together, so it’s pretty cool working here. I started a company online, so I needed a job where I could still have the flexibility to work on my company online and still make some money to stay afloat. So working at a liquor store has been a perfect match for me.
TK: Why did you choose money transferring?
NA: It’s definitely possible to transfer money cheaper than Western Union is offering. They really don’t transfer money anyway, because they already have the money at their branches all over the world, so when you want to send money, they don’t send it, it’s already there. So why it costs $9 or $10 for them to transfer $100, I’m not really sure, but a lot of companies haven’t given them much competition. GhanaRemit only charges $3 per $100.
TK: What do you hope to achieve with the site?
NA: It’s always been my goal to contribute to Ghana in some form or fashion, and this is one of the ways I figured I’d be able to do it.
TK: How successful has the site been so far?
NA: I’m about 55 percent where I want to be so far because I can’t do the money transferring just yet. I wanted to work with partner banks in Ghana, but there’s a lot of red tape and politics involved with that, so I decided to create my own payment system. That’s why I want to use prepaid debit cards, so money can be sent to the people in Ghana and they can access their money from an ATM, anytime and anywhere. Once I get the prepaid debit cards, I’ll be able to get GhanaRemit going full-swing.
GhanaRemit also has an Internet store, which allows the Ghanaian people to shop online. It’s up and running right now, and it’s doing very well.
TK: What else do you hope to achieve with the new business?
NA: I’m also donating a significant amount of our profits from the business to help medical outreach. My father is the only neurosurgeon in Ghana, just to give you an idea of the scarcity of medical care there. … My main goals with this business are to just help people transfer money conveniently all around the world and help all the unfortunate people in Ghana who don’t have access to medical care.