I knew that entrepreneurship was written in the stars for me, but I never knew it would come so early. As a child, I enjoyed the process of repairing and reassembling electrical appliances. In fact, I was always the go-to person for repairing electrical appliances in my household. Therefore, throughout high school I gravitated toward science and technology. Arriving at Drury University, I knew the career path I wanted to pursue—it involved physics. As a physics major, I understood that I would spend the majority of my college career solving tedious mathematics and physics problems; at least I was told so. I am thankful for the liberal arts culture at Drury University because it opened the door to vast opportunities and offered me a solid platform to succeed in the real world while I was pursing my undergraduate degree. Among the array of minors Drury offers, I chose entrepreneurship. I decided to minor in entrepreneurship because my grandmother introduced me to the age-old techniques of trade and barter, and also, because I viewed entrepreneurs as people in fancy suits, who love to make money. As a seventeen year old, the latter appealed to me the most, so I gave it a shot and it became one of the best decisions of my life. It’s also had a ripple effect on other lives. Today, I have an eight-person team working for me (helping to manage public relations, social media and marketing) and three of those team members attend Drury—the students are able to get firsthand practice in their major while helping to create something tangible.
As a physics major, I learned to substantially rethink, restructure and recognize the information that I am given. Basically, a physicist’s goal is to reason logically about the physical world to solve problems. I fancied the concept of solving real-life problems, so I worked very hard toward attaining success as a physics student. My physics career carried on, but I began to fall in love with my entrepreneurship minor. It was a gradual process, but I knew that the love was here to stay. Not disregarding my main focus in physics, I synchronized both interests and kept my balance as a student.
Among other things, in my entrepreneurship minor I learned to make use of what I have to create what I need; I learned the importance of good leadership and the importance of failure. It was a process of learning to identify an opportunity, shape a goal and give momentum to new ideas. Unlike physics, in my first entrepreneurship class I quickly realized that earning an A+ may give a person bragging rights but in the real world of business, it is all about successfully executing a concept. Using those lessons as a third-year student, I took a leave of absence from Drury and studied abroad. I needed to see and know the world outside of American borders. Drury offered me the option to pursue an independent study abroad program so I sailed on to explore the world. Those were some of the best months of my life.
Rewind twelve years: cars pushing expectantly through jammed streets. Citywide traffic jams lasting from morning until midnight. My grandmother’s 4 a.m. wake-up call to avoid delays. The cars’ destination? Oil Mill Market in Port-Harcourt City in my childhood home of Nigeria. The market only opened on Wednesdays, increasing its demand. The plethora of homemade wares and fresh, farmed items sold at the weekly marketplace were highly desired and affordable, thus increasing the market’s value. It also provided the backdrop for my very first lesson in business in its truest form.
The West-African marketplace was alive with fast-talking traders, interesting goods and long lines of people. I enjoyed watching people walk around the market row by row, unique sounds emerging from each booth and my native language of Ikwerre in the air. My grandmother, Mme—“mother of all” in the Ikwerre dialect—discerned my attraction to this scene and lovingly called me “Onyè-Business,” which means business lover. My “number one fan” peppered my education with her enduring, successful trading techniques. And I learned from my surroundings on those special Wednesdays. The marketplace was my Disneyland—the place I woke up early for and talked about with joy in my heart.
When my family relocated to the United States in 2004, her parting words to me were “Onyè-Business, don’t forget to come back and help us here,” as she patted my 12-year-old back. I did not know that those words would be the last ones I’d hear my grandmother say in person. Eight years after the major milestone of moving to America—which meant no longer having her near me and other major adjustments—she passed away. After leaving Nigeria, I wanted to become an entrepreneur who pursues innovative solutions to social problems, especially those plaguing my home continent of Africa, with the use of science and technology. Losing my beloved grandmother as a college student, and not being able to adequately provide her with the medical attention that she needed by transporting her here to the United States, supplied additional impetus for me to continue to pursue science and technology and entrepreneurship as a minor. One way I have begun doing so is through my neoteric bag line, O’Bazzië Classics.
O’Bazzië Classics is a unique leather bag company that offers the perfect balance between originality and timelessness. Simplicity meets uniqueness in our classically designed American accessories, made from the highest quality leathers in the world. The O’Bazzië Satchels are handcrafted to last and only grow more beautiful with time. Their simple design and quality finish have timeless appeal and can be customized to suit any age, gender or personality. Although I want to make a profit, there is a very special philanthropic mission with O’Bazzië Classics and it is dear to my heart: for every satchel sold, a bag full of classroom materials is supplied to a school child in dire need, starting in Africa and expanding across the world. The idea of using O’Bazzië Classics to solve a social problem came out of taking a Drury class called “Social Problems and Entrepreneurial Answers” with former instructor Kay Osborne. After that class, I was able to write a 46-page marketing plan and an 80-page business model for my company. I will always be thankful to Professor Osborne because it was in her class that I really realized my entrepreneurial potential. I am looking forward to collaborating with an international humanitarian organization in the future and having the O’Bazzië Satchel on major retail shelves across the continental USA.
I rest assured that the training I have received at Drury has already made me a leader who challenges the status quo and changes the way business is conducted. There is no telling how I will make use of my physics degree in the job market, but I am very thankful for the dynamic lessons I have been able to channel from my physics classes into my company.