[Interview] Essi Farida Geraldo, CEO, Architecte urbaniste, Togo
Passionate about art and creation and ended up in immersing in the field of architecture and design, Essi Farida Geraldo is the CEO of Architecte urbaniste an architectural and sustainable development firm which offer classic eco-architecture and urban planning services in Togo.
Briefly introduce your company
Architecte urbaniste (Archd’ar) is an architectural and sustainable development firm which offer classic eco-architecture and urban planning services. We have in our breast a share that offers renewable energies, eco-construction, and recycling training. We accompany any type of customer since the search for land until the turnkey construction. We provide African or authentic interior design. We adapt to the customer's budget so that it makes its dream becomes real. We are international.
When and why was it set up?
It was created in December 2017 following a need to respond to eligibility criteria for a market. It was right after my professional internship and inscribed in the Togolese National Institute of Architects. I worked as a consultant, but one day I postulated to a call for projects, and I could only apply with a legal business. Then since I am an environmental activist, all my designs are pro-environmental. I want by my constructs to awaken the consciousness of the population and encourage them to make choices respectful towards sustainable cities. And compared to my geographical area, I am in the concept of the sustainable African city.
What would you say gives Archd’ar the competitive edge?
What makes my company competitive is that it embarks on a new sector and is not yet successful. Our team being young and international makes it possible to have innovative ideas and very rich and diversified approaches.
How has the market responded to your services? Why do you think that is so?
At first, it was quite shy. I built in a conventional way by making proposals for ecological conceptions each time with local materials. The market has reacted well. I touch all the targets and my awareness works. Even young people that I shape in my programs become trainees and employees. So, it always turns. I will say that I will not die of hunger. I went from a project every 4 months to 2 minimum projects a month. I think the market reacted this way because the target population was afraid of novelty. But communication on sustainable constructions and climate change gradually change their mentality.
As trust is what attracts customers, I built a reputation, which made me known in architectural field. I have extended my network since I began travelling a lot. Among others I co-wrote architectural books with French and German publishing houses and represented the country at international summits on the themes of sustainable cities or eco construction. This element was a bonus that changed it, especially after my last conference in Chicago at the Obama Foundation Summit in 2019.
What makes Archd’ar unique from other companies which offer similar services if there are?
We are authentic, innovative, trust, credible and futurist. When customers are unable to pay for work, in social projects, we use volunteers and our CSR department to reduce costs. That makes it possible.
From the CEO's perspective, what do you think Archd’ar need to grow and prosper?
COVID-19 has changed many things in our company that made us realise we need more well-paying markets to keep working and growing. Today, the country's business climate is not very fair for youth companies like mine in Togo. The purchasing power of the population too is weak. Most of our elders do not want to leave us any opportunities. Most of my clients are outside. A boost in funding to strengthen my means of production and deploy my activities would be welcome. A partnership with structures in other countries to make projects would boost the company.
What can you say about the changes and developments your company has undergone since its inception?
This has not been easy but I am happy with the progress observed as we now have permanent and temporary staff, a team of 5 people’s team. I started alone and today for my causes and subsidies of some pro environmental activities; I even been nominated “Heroine” in 2019 in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) thanks to my company. My company is very open on digital. So, I was not too affected by the corona. I was doing virtual consultations. I worked for clients that I have never seen. I have converted all my trainings to make them virtual. My room has gone from a room to a desk complex with a large co-working hall.
What is the greatest threat to your business and industry?
The biggest threat to an architect is bankruptcy due to a lack of markets from where there will be debts to state authorities and staff. Another threat is the reputation. As one of my elders said, the architect or urban planner can not hide his failed works. All these errors are seen in life size.
What are your company’s plans for 2021?
For 2021, we are working on a partnership with a design imaging consultant who will make our productions pass to a larger level. We are not used to running after the markets, many came to us because we have been recommended to them. However, this year, Archd’ar go to the communes to offer them projects. The latter will just have to seek funding for the realization. What fun is that I have not even started but two municipalities have already called to me.
This year, Archd’ar plans are:
- Go to the communes to propose them projects
- Expand my Archid'ar Heart program that supports young entrepreneurs with them specifically the design of their bank plans and records
- After elaborating the catalogs of the luxury low houses more affordable, get to sell a good average “key in hands” per month.
- Acculent staff by a communication department with mastery of social networks including Tik Tok and Twitter
- Finance a 4-wheeled vehicle for business work
Any closing remarks?
We started the year in very eco. After completing the development of a waste processing and recycling plant in the capital, we have just started an ecovillage project in a municipality in a region within the country. The pioneering architectural project of the eco village is an Eco lodge.