Pinaman Owusu-Banahene

Pinaman Owusu-Banahene is the founder and CEO of ADJOAA, a curated multi-brand, online marketplace for premium, sustainable fashion and lifestyle brands by African and African-diaspora designers. She was named one of 15 retail and e-commerce entrepreneurs to watch in 2022 by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and founded and led the Africa Fashion Festival New Zealand from 2014 to 2017.

Blazing new trails through the glamorous rag trade seems a far cry from Pinaman Owusu-Banahene’s Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Auckland but she credits her undergraduate degree with being “a window into a world of possibilities and inequities”.  Subsequently, the University's graduate internship programme for Health Science helped expand Pinaman’s horizons from clinical science towards public policy which, in turn, “opened my eyes and mind to the complexities of bringing about systemic and lasting change,” she says. “You can create the world you want but you must have courage, not be afraid of failure and be willing to persevere.”

Her entrepreneurial activities always have wider transformative goals behind them, such as addressing the lack of access to sales channels for African designers and makers, or the lack of investment capital for women entrepreneurs – particularly those from underestimated backgrounds. In short, Pinaman aims to be a “catalyst for bright minds to dare to dream and build the companies of the future”.

She was born in Ghana where the philanthropy of her grandparents was a great inspiration: “Giving back to society was something I learnt very early in life,” she says. Pinaman moved to New Zealand as a teenager in order to study at the University of Auckland, and, while working in a demanding full-time job, founded and led the Africa Fashion Festival New Zealand from 2014 to 2017, to connect African brands with buyers and media in the Australasian region. In 2018 she was recognised with a Chevening Scholarship for “outstanding emerging leaders”, which she used to obtain a masters degree in social innovation and entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics.

Still, it’s fair to say fashion was not always on her radar. “My career trajectory has been full of many unexpected highs and twists and turns – it’s not the linear path my younger self charted and envisaged,” laughs Pinaman, who has also worked as a senior policy advisor in employment policies, primary care and investment attraction in New Zealand and Australia.

Her startup, ADJOAA, was publicly launched in November 2021, and aims ‘’to connect discerning and conscientious consumers to unique, hard-to-find, sustainably made, limited-run products by African and Black designers at accessible price points''. ADJOAA now presents around 17,000 products from over 100 emerging and established sustainable designers in 25 countries across the African continent and the diaspora. Pinaman says it’s rewarding to see young brands connect with new customers across the globe. 

Sustainability is an important principle for Pinaman and ADJOAA. To be listed on ADJOAA, brands must be sustainable not just from an environmental standpoint. “We accord equal weight to cultural and social sustainability which is rarely talked about; we are about cultivating and creating social change,” says Pinaman. “I am a very ambitious person and utterly unapologetic about it,” she says. “Each goal or success is immediately replaced with another audacious goal.”

Her current goal: building the best technology company to come out of Africa. But also, she knows “I have achieved so much in my personal and professional life in my short life that if I were to leave the planet today, I would leave knowing I gave the best of myself each day.”