ADJOAA: Connecting Consumers to Culture

Sep, 2022

Insights into Impact with ADJOAA’s Pinaman Owusu-Banahene.
Interview by Sam Wearne with Pinaman / Article by Joella Marcus
Founder, Pinaman Owusu-Banahene

"ADJOAA is more than your average marketplace, we’re really invested in our designers and artisans–value creation is at the core of what we do. "

ADJOAA is a fascinating company. After helping launch the brand in 2021, we wanted to catch up with its founder, Pinaman and hear how things are going. In updating us on her journey, she shared some great ideas.

Pinaman sets very clear boundaries in the partnerships she enters and stakeholders she engages. All brands are vetted through their own novel solution. This ensures ADJOAA maintains its core social values and its commitment to sustainability whilst fostering deeper connections with its consumers.

At ADJOAA, we work with innovative designers who work closely with artisans and small scale producers. It's that craftsperson in rural Ghana, who is working with a young designer, perhaps someone who has had the privilege of studying abroad or regionally on the Continent. Together, theyhave what it takes to get to the global market. We help them. This creates jobs and by proxy, enables artisans and communities to retain and preserve traditional production practices, as well as revitalise them. About 20% of the creators on our platform are established designers – the other 80% are emerging brands that are hard to find. Most of the products in our marketplace are make-to-order, or are upcycled or recycled from preloved clothing or from made from deadstock fabric. Also, all productions are limited-run and are not mass produced. They're all ambitious brands and employ circular economy practices in their business approach.

She points to Sam’s recent ADJOAA purchase: Sam, the designer that you ordered from, works with artisans in a slum in Kenya. He is training artisans, working with them, and giving them jobs. So buying it means you’re a part of a solution, giving someone a sustainable income. It matters. If he knows that you can buy something once a month or so, and he can pay his kids’ school fees, health care, and plan ahead in life, he knows that he’ll have a sustainable salary coming in, and that he’s not going to live in abject poverty. That is what ADJOAA’s all about.

With 55 independent brands already under their wing, ADJOAA hopes to expand to 100 within a year. ADJOAA is a small but mighty force within the creative economy and as a self-funded, bootstrap venture, they’re tackling huge challenges with huge potential: it requires thinking outside the bounds.

"From a business lens, every challenge is a business opportunity – but that's not to say it’s easy.

We're still learning that nothing goes according to plan, you need to be quite agile, and very adaptable.

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is shipping costs and distance. Fortunately, I've been able to secure a good logistic partnership. By getting buy-in about what we’re building and aiming to achieve, we were able to secure a lucrative partnership with DHL Express as part of the Go-Trade initiative, which is considerably less than what they normally charge. By securing the partnership, we’re able to pass on the benefits by opening up access a much bigger customer base than an individual designer can reach. It’s a significant milestone and opportunity, and I’m really excited about it.

There's a stereotypical narrative around Africa and I see ADJOAA as an avenue to re-educate. The beauty of ADJOAA is being able to have a platform that helps our community get to know Africa in a more comprehensive manner. What is the gateway to any community? It's through the arts and culture (the way of life). We highlight the fashion, food, music, destinations, among other things. Beyond our platform, Instagram is the first touch point with most of our customers, so educating people is all done virtually. We try to bring in our vision through storytelling. We want to provide a portal into this mysterious continent, where too often, the narrative is really dark, gloomy and plagued with poverty. I wanted to show the whole story, the bits that are not being presented.

In the future, we want to get very interactive with our customers, and build connections between them and our creatives. That, to me, is exciting, because the company is not built around me. It's built around the people that want to see this platform thrive. We're an e-commerce platform but integral to our DNA is Community, Culture and Circularity. Social impact is at the heart of what we're building.

We're at a stage where we are focused on growth. So we are adding team members and trying to figure out how to make our systems more resilient as we grow, whilst ensuring that we have the funds to support and even accelerate that growth. We're challenging the status quo. We're for consumers seeking an alternative to fast fashion. Those that want uniqueness, quality and affordable sustainable fashion without it being at the expense of the planet or the people making the garments.

With the ambition and passion of Pinaman, ADJOAA is sure to go far and we can’t wait to see where they go from here. Or as Pinaman says, ‘Let's make shit happen’.

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