This is an excerpt from an article written by Charlotte Danby for Waterloo News.
Bertha Bridget Kankam (MBET ’22) recently completed her master’s degree in business, entrepreneurship and technology (MBET) at Waterloo Engineering’s Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business.
That is a worthy success in and of itself, but Kankam is not your typical MBET student. Better known to many as Yaa Yaa, she is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Ghana.
The 33-year-old crossed the stage to receive her degree at the University’s fall convocation ceremony last year. No stranger to stages and spotlights, Yaa Yaa radiated success as she stepped out in full academic dress robes — a new look for many of her fans.
Yaa Yaa always loved singing, but her first time performing on stage was in 2009 when she participated in the Ghanaian reality singing show Stars of the Future. She was 19 years old and won the competition.
Her singing career quickly took off with growing fan bases in Africa and the U.S. But when her two-year contract with Stars of the Future ended, she had to fend for herself in a tough environment.
“Everything was suddenly on me,” says Yaa Yaa. “I had to lead meetings, develop my own marketing strategy and build a trusted network. I was young and didn’t have a lot of business experience, so a lot of people tried to underpay, short-change or overwork me. It was a massive learning curve, but I stayed strong. By taking charge of my brand, I became an entrepreneur long before I knew that I was an entrepreneur.”