The Olympic Torch Relay celebrates the passing of the sacred flame from one torch to the next, from Olympia, in Greece to the site of an Olympic games. The passing of the flame symbolizes the transfer of this symbolic fire from one generation to another. As we celebrate the launch of the 2020 cohort of entrepreneurs in the Ashesi Venture Incubator, we reflect on the unique incubator model we have developed that we must pass on from one cohort to another. We recruited our first cohort, the current torchbearers, into a one year incubator program as part of their national service.
They pioneered the concept of supporting graduating, enterprising students and recent alumni, with a proof of concept, to try out entrepreneurship as a career alternative. In a part of the world where graduate unemployment is high and entrepreneurship is not considered a career alternative to the traditional jobs graduates typically get, our program had to make a bold proposition to equip and support our fellows with what it takes to succeed in entrepreneurship as a young graduate. The program therefore de-risks the start-up process and makes it easier for graduating entrepreneurial types to test out venture concepts before they consider other career options.
With a few months to the end of the incubator period for the first cohort, we are excited to announce the launch of the 2020 Cohort as part of the preparation for this next group of torchbearers, to receive the flame and continue to light the path for another group of young entrepreneurs, yet to come.
The Ashesi Venture Incubator (AVI)
The AVI is one of three programs under the New Entrepreneurs Xchange for Transformation project (NEXTi2i), which is a collaboration between Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab, funded by the USAID. The purpose of this collaboration is to create a values-driven incubator that trains emerging entrepreneurs with the focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)-driven outcomes in their business model. As an educational institution that emphasizes on offering a holistic education and in creating ethical entrepreneurial leaders, the AVI is one of many, of Ashesi’s bold commitment to offering continued support to its students and recent graduates to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.
Since its inception in 2019, the incubator has attracted an appreciable number of applicants with an exceptional 2019 cohort.
Call for application
This year, the recruitment process started with a call for applications from November 10, 2019 to January 31, 2020. Several applications were received and after rounds of interviews and assessments, 13 applicants were selected.
Hannah Dorkenu is the co-founder and operations manager for Korah Foods. A final year student at Ashesi, budding entrepreneur, environmentalist and creative art enthusiast. Her role is to manage the operational process from resource acquisition to delivery to customers.
Bernard Derry Wanye is the CEO of Speeders Laundry. Bernard started Speeders Laundry as a mark of the beginning of a series of creating quality businesses out of everyday needs in the society. His role is simply making great entrepreneurs out of ordinary people. Bernard is a graduate of Ashesi.
Growing up, Pearl Abbam, founder of Pearl’s Craft and a soon to be graduate of Ashesi, developed her interest in craftwork. Moving from hobby to business, she hopes to share in the sense of style of the bold and classy individuals with her unique designs. She believes that style should not cost a fortune. She hopes to make a difference, using her business as an avenue to groom creatives not only in their field of interest but in leadership, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, and concern for others to be well-rounded people.
Teni Agana is the founder and CEO of Loozeele Initiative. She is a tenacious young lady who worked as a kayayoo to pay her way through high school. Admitted to Ashesi as a Mastercard scholar in 2014; she received the President’s Award at her graduation, for exemplary scholarship, leadership and citizenship. She is currenting running the Loozeele Initiative which provides a source of income for 20 kayayei girls and women in the Upper East region of Ghana, as well as organizes educational programs for the youth. Her long-term goal is to ensure that underprivileged children, especially girls with backgrounds like hers, have a support system to keep them from veering from their goal.
Janet Fuah is the co-founder of Divergent. She is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Ashesi. Janet founded Divergent with her classmates who coached the freshman entrepreneurship teams at Ashesi. Divergent trains high school students in the rural communities to create sustainable solutions to communal problems with Design Thinking.
Theresa Sarudzai Chidembo, is the founder of Ung Jordbruk. Theresa is an Electrical and Electronic Engineering major at Ashesi, graduating in 2020. Theresa has been rearing cattle in Zimbabwe since 2017. Her aim is to produce quality beef and to lure more young people into commercial farming and to create employment. Theresa runs her business in Zimbabwe where she is originally from.
Mohamed Hijazi is the CEO of Meuse Cab. Mohammed is majoring in Computer Science at Ashesi and is leveraging technology and design to drive change in the transportation industry by providing safe, reliable, and affordable transportation to students in universities in Ghana. In doing this, he uses locals around university to boost employment and growth.
The close of our inaugural cohort’s incubator experience is one that represents the spirit of entrepreneurial resiliency, as these ventures quickly needed to adapt to the negative impact of a global pandemic. However, just as they pioneered the start of the first business incubator of its kind, they pass along that trailblazing torch to the next cohort.
Our incoming cohort can look forward to using lean research to better understand their market during the summer, their pre-incubation experience which prepares them for transition into a hybrid business, business simulations to help them engage in various scenarios to improve their businesses, business development modules led by some outstanding African business professionals, personal development sessions that help unlock their leadership capacities, and connections to an amazing pool of local and global mentors to assist in making their ventures profitable and impactful. We are excited to witness the transformation of these young ventures over the next year.