February 4, 2019:
A few months after launching his men’s clothing business, Tailored Hands, senior Ezekiel Hormeku ‘19 hit a bump that many startups encounter – funding to grow and expand their business idea.
With orders coming in faster than they could serve, Tailored Hands had to expand their equipment, team, and production base to cater for their growing clientele. And so Ezekiel turned to an initiative at Ashesi aimed at helping student entrepreneurs solve this exact problem – the Ashesi Enterprise Fund (AEF).
“We were able to secure a loan from the AEF that helped us acquire more sewing machines,” he said. “It was a huge headache taken care of, and this helped us focus on other important parts of the business such as properly establishing a supply chain for our materials, hiring more tailors, and creating some structure within the organization.”
Through soft loans, with little to no interest rates, the AEF has helped support over twenty students like Ezekiel through their entrepreneurial journey. And it has only just started.
“The Ashesi Enterprise Fund was set up to bridge the financial gap students face in starting and running businesses on campus, and also to promote the student problem-solving vision of the university,” shared faculty Dr. Sena Agyepong, who helped lay the foundation for the fund. “We realized that most of the entrepreneurs who were coming out of Ashesi could be better prepared and needed more opportunities to pick knowledge along the way. So the AEF is part of the work we are doing to set up an ecosystem that can drive this on campus and beyond.”
Starting from their first year, Ashesi’s curriculum was remodeled to engage students and introduce them to the university’s entrepreneurial ecosystem; through the year-long Foundation of Design and Entrepreneurship course that teaches them the ropes of entrepreneurship, and then with added support from initiatives like the AEF, the Ashesi Venture Accelerator, the Ashesi D:Lab and the final-year Entrepreneurship Capstone program.
“When you have a really great idea that you believe can grow in impact, but don’t have access to funding to launch it, it hurts,” shared Ifashabayo Dejoie, who started an annual concert in his home country of Rwanda focused on helping strengthen the nation’s history and culture through connecting the youth and older generations.
“When I heard about the AEF I reached out and after going through their application and pitching process, I secured enough funds to hold the inaugural concert – which saw support from several key leaders and voices in Rwanda.”
In addition to supporting student startups, the AEF also connects students to leading industry professional led by the fund’s governing council made up of representatives from Corporate Ghana, who help advice on growth and sustainability.
“The fund has grown steadily, primarily from the support of entities and individuals from across the world,” shared Dr. Agyepong. “This not only helps sustain our student businesses but also helps establish a pipeline for bright students and promising businesses to engage with these companies and individuals.”
“The fund is a dream enabler,” said Audrey S-Darko, who also received support to start an on-campus food service. “It rekindles a dream or desire you’ve had to build or start something.”
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