Ashesi Venture Incubator: Pre-Incubation Workshop

The Ashesi Venture Incubator (AVI), a programme of the New Entrepreneurs Xchange for Transformation (NEXTi2i), hosted a three-day pre-incubation workshop for entrepreneurs who are fellows in the incubator at Hephzibah Christian Centre from August 28th -30th. The fellows participated in mini-workshop sessions to assess their business development progress and received real-time coaching and feedback to help them refine core aspects of their businesses.

Workshop sessions

Jewel Thompson, the AVI Manager and NEXTi2i Project Operations Lead, and Dr. Gordon Adomza, NEXTi2i Program Director kicked-off the seminar with an orientation that primed participants on the importance of continual improvement, which is the core of incubator’s positioning. The goal of the incubator is to support the fellows and help them build businesses that serve a functional purpose and address Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to contribute to a circular economy.

Following the introduction to the workshop, the fellows presented outcomes from their research. The presentations showed that the fellows gained a lot of insight into customer segmentation, needs identification and a general sense of how to approach their value propositions. The activities conducted, the insights gained and the resulting questions generated provided a renewed vigor for each of the fellows and prepared the stage for the work sessions on how to properly build out different aspects of their business to incorporate the lessons learned from their summer research.

As such, the mini-sessions held on the first day were designed to follow-up on the summer presentations and guide the fellows through the process of updating the various tools and frameworks used in their businesses to assess information and develop logic decision making. This workshop design therefore provided a safe space that allowed them to ask questions and get real-time feedback. The mini-sessions included understanding the customer’s point of view (POV), developing the customer’s journey map around the solution concept, supporting the customers experience points in their journey  through the value fulfillment blueprint and evaluating the business model canvas with hybridized value flows, developing an operational planning process using the proforma cashflow, and developing a pitch deck for effective storytelling on their businesses. In addition, there was a unique mini-session on the  use of metrics, monitoring and evaluation process, KPIs, and the lean research framework in the Business Model Canvas (BMC)  led by Arkeisha Amissah-Arthur, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager (NEXTi2i). All the mini-sessions were well-received by the fellows, including those who had participated in other incubator programs. They reported getting clarity on: their value proposition the users they are targeting with these value propositions; how they are engaging with them; how they are building social impact into their value chain; how they plan to sustain their businesses; and their path to growth. Essentially, all the fellows noted that they were able to integrate the insights and learnings from their research and the mini-sessions into their planning for the year in ways that accelerated their progress in getting ready for the year ahead. 

“When I was in my final year at Ashesi, I learnt the Business Model Canvas (BMC), I also taught Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship as a faculty intern and I took students through the VFB but funny enough, I hadn’t applied this to my own business. Going through the process during the workshops has helped me understand some of the gaps in our module in providing some of the services we offer to the girls at Bowney Initiative and the donors that support our programme. I have learnt through the lean research methodology to make our process rigorous so we are able to provide the exact service we claim to offer.” Said Grace Amponsah, CEO Bowney Initiative and AVI fellow.

Grace Amponsah, CEO of Bowney Initiative and AVI fellow

On the final day, Sylvia Kunkyebe, Assistant Director of Career Services at Ashesi  presented an interactive assessment of fellows’ personality types and traits as it pertained to their businesses and Jemimah Alemna, the Communications Specialist (NEXTi2i), presented a guide to brand building and social media. The closing mini-sessions taught by Ms. Thompson and Dr. Adomdza  included company building, and getting out of the entrepreneurial valley of death, which focused on the various aspects of starting a business, and the business lifecycle to breaking even and making a profit. Dr. Adomdza emphasized how most businesses fail in their first 5 years of operations because of their inability to come out of the Valley of Death, the stage in the lifecycle before breakeven. He also overlaid the start-up financing cycle on the business lifecycle to help the fellows understand the types of resources they can attract at various stages of their business and why they need to assess their business cycle critically and identify critical milestones they want to focus on and work towards for the coming year. 

“The past three days have been very impactful. I have been running my business for some time and didn’t know the details of the business in terms of the Value Fulfilment Blueprint, the Business Model Canvas, understanding my cash flow but I now have a clear plan for my company and know what next steps to take,” said Derick Omari, CEO of Tech Era and AVI fellow.

Derick Omari, CEO of Tech Era and AVI fellow

AVI is unique because it supports entrepreneurs who are recent university graduates while providing resources to help them build their business into investment-ready enterprises that are also socially impactful. It does this through ongoing workshops inclusive of a lean research approach to the business development process, coaching,  and customized training sessions, and resources that are identified for each fellow in the program with support from Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab.

“The aim of the pre-incubation workshop was to assist the fellows in  uncovering and addressing gaps within their current business model in preparation for the impending one year incubation period beginning in September. The sessions identified where they might be missing  critical steps within their business that could require them to hire talent, re-evaluate their operational process , or assess the steps needed to cross the chasm, towards commercialization. This was important because understanding these dynamics within their businesses allows for reevaluation, to ensure that the business modules they would be participating in  over the incubator period would be tailored to their specific challenges.,” said Ms. Thompson.

As an added spice to the workshop schedule, Ashesi Board Member and entrepreneurship lecturer at Foster Business School, Emer Dooley, came to the morning session on the second day of the workshop with business students from Washington State University. The morning meeting allowed for open dialogue and exciting conversations about business in Ghana.  The fellows shared their business concepts and held an open forum for the students from Washington State to ask questions and learn more.

Group picture of AVI fellows and  Washington State University students

What’s next

Over the next year, fellows will participate in quarterly sprints of learnings within allocated business module areas and active work, which means that everything learned in the previous month will be applied and tested. The final stage of the sprint is a holistic review that provides the opportunity for fellows take steps towards development, both business-oriented and personal: meeting with personal development coaches and working with assigned mentors among other activities. With a truly lean design, the incubation process directs participants through a continuous process of improvement, reflection and provides an opportunity to grow.