Interviewed by Jemima Olangi
This week we asked Lana Captan Ghandour a few questions about herself and THEIA café.
I’d like to start off with asking your full name, where you were born and where did you grow up?
My name is Lana Captan Ghandour. I have a Lebanese father and Circassian Jordanian mother. I was born in Lebanon, raised in Ghana, went to school in Accra (Ghana International School and Lincoln Community School) and London. I have lived and worked in Canada, Dubai, Jordan and Lebanon.
Every single one of these places has a special place in my heart. So as you can imagine the “Where are you from?” question is difficult to answer!
My career has been enriched by my diverse multicultural identity: having worked as a Journalist, university instructor and Public Relations practitioner. I am a communication specialist and have worked for the United Nations for more than a decade. Aside from THEIA, I have co-founded wellness entities and drive initiatives to support small businesses in Ghana.
When did you decide to move to Ghana? And why?
Ghana is home. My paternal grandfather came to Ghana in the 1920’s seeking a better life. It’s the typical migrant story that unfortunately holds true today: a young man got on a boat and sailed for weeks to reach a destination that would give him HOPE. Like many Lebanese he was industrious and resilient to make a living. My grandfather was a close friend of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah so my family is very much part of the socio-political fabric in Ghana.
What inspired you to start THEIA Café? I came back to Ghana in 2011 with my husband and two young kids seeking a more balanced life as a mother and career woman. It was a turning point. I had the mom guilt every day. Was I spending enough time with them? So we decided to move to Ghana and try our hands out as entrepreneurs. While it was great to be in my childhood home, Accra felt strange. I kept telling my husband this isn’t Accra. I feel like a stranger. Houses on our street were transformed into polished office buildings. Walls replaced the green bushy fences between the houses. There were no longer trees for birds to chirp in early in the morning. Where was the streetfood? The neighborhood kelewele seller? The Kayayo selling Fresh Bread with margarine? Where was the love and pride for everything authentically Ghanaian? It had been replaced with a modern urban concrete jungle. So we decided to recreate and celebrate all that I loved about the Ghana I grew up in. We transformed a building behind our house into a sanctuary in nature, celebrating beautiful sentiments in an experiential way. With food as our main source of inspiration.
What is the meaning behind the name THEIA?
We wanted something reminiscent of Mother Nature. A strong nurturer. In Greek mythology, Theia was the Titan goddess of sight and the shining light of the clear blue sky. Mother of the Sun (Helios), Moon (Selene) and Dawn (Eos). She was also the goddess who endowed gold, silver and gems.
We are also originally from the Mediterranean like the goddess herself so THEIA, the bougainvillea and the grape vine reflect that part of us too.
Would you say you are proud of yourself with what you’ve done with THEIA café?
That we are able to showcase what is so special about Ghana. Whether it’s the art and books, or our own amazing Team that is 100 percent Ghanaian or that we use local ingredients and inspirations in our dishes.
We have built a community of like-minded people walking through our doors every day. THEIA is my world. For that I am grateful.
I believe many of our clients feel the same way. They feel happy, secure and serene in our space whether they come to us to work or disconnect from the noise of everyday life. It’s their sanctuary as much as it is ours.
Who is your biggest supporter? And do you think it is important to have a genuine supporter(s) by your side?
I have had different supporters at varying trajectories of my life. Growing up it was definitely my family: my parents and brother. It sounds clichéd but I also stand on the shoulders of strong women. Grandmothers and Aunties who have weathered many storms and taught me how precious it is to be a woman. Nothing was ever impossible. All I ever heard was “Of course you can do it”.
I challenged myself in my career choices: I worked as a journalist in Lebanon and for the United Nations in several capacities. When I met my husband I was working day and night as a reporter. He continued that “go getter” support, cheering me on when I had to fulfill my role as both a mother and career woman.
At this stage in my life I would say my biggest supporters are my children. My perseverant, 20 year old, no nonsense daughter Jana and 15 year old wise and pragmatic son Zeyd. They are probably the most straightforward, animated cheerleaders I have ever had!
How do you balance your personal life and run your businesses at the same time? Any tips?
That’s a difficult question to answer and if anyone, a woman and a mother especially, can give you a confident answer I would challenge them! It’s a daily tipping of the scales but I believe that if you are conscious of the need for balance it will keep you in check.