Pearl Naheema Hanson rubs shoulders with men in distilling alcohol

BY: Alberto Mario Noretti
Pearl Naheema Hanson

SHE is an industrial icon and the Managing Director of AA Food and Beverages. 

Pearl Naheema Hanson graduated from the University of Manchester in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Chemistry, with Business and Management.

Her wish has always been to start her own business back in Ghana, and so she visited home often to assist her mother in her wholesale and retail business in cosmetics, ladies handbags and suitcase in Accra.

She finally returned to Ghana in 2016 after training in distilling alcohol in Liverpool.

“My partners and I wanted to produce premium spirits to match those produced in the UK for a good price, at a time the government wanted to help young entrepreneurs to start their own businesses,” Pearl stated.

With a modest beginning, Pearl set up her own laboratory at home at East Legon in Accra, to produce all the ingredients needed to start two products – the pouched 250 ml Spice Rum, which is an upgrade of the local gin on the market, and the bottled Sahara Solace, a butterscotch schnapps flavoured liqueur.

In 2017, the AA Food and Beverages took off in business heartily with Pearl in control.
Earlier this month, one of the company’s products, Sahara Solace, was adjudged the New Beverage of the Year at the Ghana Beverage Awards in Accra.

In addition, the company was among the exhibitors at the Ghana Investments and Opportunities Summit held in London in January 2020.
There, the company got orders from 10 shops and pubs for its products.

“Already, the future for our business, locally and internationally looks so bright and we will soon introduce other products,” she said

She admits that her success story did not come on a silver platter. The single mother of two is very proud of her hometown Kwahu-Akwasiho. And was in Kwahu for the Easter festivities to promote her products.

She explained that the AA Food and Beverages is the brainchild of three partners – Cecil Kwapong, Adonten Quarshie and “I am the CEO spearheading the company”.

The Mirror: You took a bold decision to start this business and you are making a strong impact not only in Ghana but internationally as well. What is the motivation behind this success story?

Pearl: I was born into a family of entrepreneurs. My mother is a smart businesswoman with decades of experience as the owner of Vidal Bags at Georgina Stores in Accra. My grandmother was also a big-time trader at Makola at the Central Business District and my grand uncle, Joshua Siaw, was the Managing Director of Tata Brewery.

My brother, Ernest Hanson, is the Managing Director of Beaufort Properties and my cousin, Dennis Boateng, is the Chief Executive Officer of Dadabee, a fast-food joint in Accra.
So, it runs in the family, and I am thankful to my mother for supporting all my business endeavours.
The Mirror: What challenges did you face in starting your business?

Pearl: The beginning was indeed tough. The requisite documents for the business took too long a time to process at the various departments and that was very frustrating. We need a system that can facilitate faster ways of securing our business documents.

The Mirror: As a mother and industrialist, how do you manage the two roles effectively?
Pearl: It is all about good time management and dedication to each of the two roles.

The Mirror: Where do you get your raw materials from?

Pearl: We get the palm from local farmers in the Eastern Region, and we also get the local ethanol from the indigenous people.

The Mirror: What about the packaging materials and target market?
Pearl: We get them from India and China. The company’s target market is the middle-income group. We are setting up distribution points in various parts of the country and eyeing other markets in West Africa as well.

The Mirror: What is the strength of your workforce?
Pearl: At the moment, we have five workers and we will recruit between 10 and 15 more later this year.

The Mirror: What are your hobbies?
Pearl: I love music, dancing, reading and cooking.

The Mirror: What message do you have for the younger ones?
Pearl: If you want to start a venture, carry out the research first, have a plan for the venture, stay focused and be persistent to ensure that it works.

The Mirror: Your product has just been adjudged New Beverage of the Year. What are now the main priorities of your company?

Pearl: We believe this award and the honour will pave the way for more investment opportunities. AA Food and Beverages is registered with the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) and Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA); and we are export-ready. We are also registered with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), to take advantage of the single market across Africa.

Pearl: Our company seeks to expand the production of its branded alcoholic beverages and intensify its distribution effort to take advantage of

the emerging market opportunities for its products.

Our products, the Sahara Solace Butterscotch Schnapps Liqueur and Spice Rum, are excellently packaged to clearly distinguish them from other products on the market.
They are now the choice of guests at cocktails, funerals, weddings and other social gatherings.

We also plan to introduce another product on the market this year.
Our products provide options in both quality and variety, making the point of purchase decision easy and promoting the products in an interactive business consumer fashion.

With additional capital injection of GH¢ 1.2 million (approximately US$ 250,000.00), it is projected that the company would be earning average net profit of GH¢ 368,000.00 per annum in the next five years.