Entrepreneur Alumna Reimagines Female Empowerment With AI
When Akousa Asare (iBBA ’16) started experiencing hair loss in high school, she became interested in wigs and discovered the power they had in facilitating self-expression and boosting confidence.
She soon realized that customers had limited options when it came to product styles and sizes and that there was a need for a consolidated database that includes how-to videos, styling tips and a community of advisors.
Asare decided to launch Essence Luxe Couture, an e-commerce site specifically focused on providing customers with made-to-fit, film-quality wigs that are sustainably sourced and meticulously handmade by a female-led production team.
“Over the past three years, through customer interactions, I discovered that there were glaring pain points, that nobody was attempting to resolve,” Akousa said. This inspired her to develop an AI-powered application, called Muse, that allow customers to virtually try on and purchase wigs and hair extensions that perfectly compliment the customer’s facial features, skin tone, and personality.
“It is a virtually immersive experience that mimics an in-salon experience, all from the comfort of one’s own homes, and all with a product that looks impeccably natural and fits like a glove,” shared Asare. She envisions a partnership with Sephora once the application launches, in which they could recommend a complete look that includes lipstick, eyelashes, and much more.
Since the store’s inception, Asare has grossed over $180K in sales, been featured in Shopify’s Independents Campaign (1, 2) winning the ‘People’s Choice Award’ and Bereskin & Parr LLP Startup Innovation Award at the most recent Schulich Startup Night. She was also a Young Professional of the Year Nominee for the Small & Mighty Summit (2020), and is now a part of this year’s cohort of the LaunchYU Accelerator.
“I firmly believe that entrepreneurship is the key to female empowerment and black empowerment,” shared Asare.