From Hobby to Hybrid Business: Empowerment through Crafts and Fashion

Pearl Abbam, a fellow of the Ashesi Venture Incubator is deeply passionate about entrepreneurship and inspiring the younger generation to lead a purpose-driven life. Growing up, she developed an interest in craftwork, a hobby she has since turned into a business. 

The Ashesi Venture Incubator, a programme of the NEXTi2i project (a collaboration between Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab) is a one-year incubation experience for recent graduates and alumni of Ashesi University. Over the course of their time in the AVI, fellows (incubatees) are provided with financial support, business development programmes and mentorship from local and global industry professionals. 

The AVI was designed with the intention of developing hybrid businesses that are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals because it is not enough to simply equip the new age of entrepreneurs with the skills needed to become profitable. To meet the urgent demand for sustainable development in emerging economies, businesses must also be in the position to deliver some level of social impact, be it through their supply chain processes, sourcing, or inclusive employment practices.

Pearl’s business, Juweel, is a fashion brand that focuses on producing fashion accessories, e.g. bags, neck-pieces and earrings, all of which are handmade with exceptional attention to detail. Their social impact initiative involves the hiring of women who have been unable to further their education, providing them not only with employment but also training in areas of leadership, entrepreneurship and critical thinking. This gives them tools that will enable them to set up their own businesses in the future if they so please. 

The insightful fellow has come to understand some of the challenges that come with entrepreneurship, e.g. feeling like an entrepreneur must do “everything by themselves” and “reconciling the myth that entrepreneurs are somehow expected to suffer and burnout”. To combat this Pearl finds “help when” she “can” although she admits that finding “the right help can sometimes be challenging.”

When Pearl is not working on her business, she cooks and shares her love for it on her food blog. She also loves to travel and explore, especially within Ghana, her home country.


She is a huge supporter of the AVI, referring to it as her “tribe” and “community” and appreciates that her mentor Akpene Diata Hoggar is “available” to her “anytime” she needs “her expert opinion on anything”. She describes Akpene, a Ghanaian entrepreneur, content producer and social activist and a Management Information Systems graduate of Ashesi University as “very resourceful”.

In 2018, Akpene represented the Brong-Ahafo Region in the Miss Universe Ghana contest and won, giving her the opportunity to represent Ghana in the international Miss Universe contest in Bangkok, Thailand. She is the co-founder of Creatives Anonymous Africa and Peer Relief and is the founder of DSKVRD (Discover Yourself, Discover Your Purpose) as well as a consultant and the founder of Sundiata Studios, a digital lifestyle agency. The multipotentialite has walked several local and international runway shows as a model including the Fashion for Peace Fashion Show at the Paris Peace Forum 2018 and was a Model Face of Ghana contestant. 

These two women have a common love for fashion and share in their passion for the advocacy for female empowerment through education and entrepreneurship. Akpene has found her relationship with Pearl to be “very insightful” and “reflective” for her, especially being a young entrepreneur herself. 

“This collaboration has given me the opportunity to share my learnings with other entrepreneurs, evaluating how things work within their venture and also learning more about the processes from their perspective.

As a young entrepreneur, I was fascinated to find out what the similarities were between my experiences and other experiences. The difference here is being in the passenger seat and providing some insight as an observer as opposed to being the one in charge, which has broadened my understanding of the entrepreneurship journey for different people.

Engaging with and getting to know the rest of the team behind the project beyond just my mentee has been very enriching. The reflections and assessments with the project managers as well have aided in my growth as a mentor.”