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Five minutes with entrepreneur alumna, Ugonna Nwakanma

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Ugonna Nwakanma tells us about her nomination as a finalist in the Business and Innovation at the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards means to her and her entrepreneurial work. 

You were recently nominated for the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards for Business and Innovation in Nigeria. Can you tell us what the nomination means to you?

I was deeply honoured and grateful to be nominated as Business and Innovation finalist by the British Council. It feels incredible being recognised for my work and celebrated for my achievements. 

It shows that the impact of my accomplishments in my country are valued. 

I am thankful to my family for cheering me on, particularly my parents for their support every step of the way on this journey.

Ugonna receiving her award at the Study UK Alumni ceremony in Nigeria

Can you tell us more about EyeWise and any other work you are doing? 

EyeWise specialises in eyewear styling and is the first of its kind in Africa. I am very passionate about my eyewear styling brand identity.

I started EyeWise upon realising that many people are not confident to wear frames especially fashion enthusiasts who require prescription lenses but tend to not wear them because they find the frames boring.

Our focus is to style our customers eyewear to fit your face shape, lifestyle, skin tone, personality, career to their elevate eyeglasses and sunglasses style. We help transform our customers eyewear style. With my background as an eye doctor, EyeWise subsequently evolved to an eyecare centre where eyecare meets eyewear fashion. 

Fun fact about EyeWise: it’s a passion turned business because many people were inspired by my personal styling of unique pieces. 

I am also the Medical Insurance Manager at TotalEnergies. I was headhunted to start up a medical insurance scheme there. I conceptualised and operationalised this project as the first ground-breaking initiative amongst the international oil companies in Nigeria. 

What have been some of the most rewarding moments of your career so far?

There have been quite a few! Some stand outs have been starting EyeWise and organising events and pop up shops to promote it and help grow our customer base. Being nominated by the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards as a finalist in Business and Innovation for my work with EyeWise is another.

My work with EyeWise has helped create job and innovative business opportunities and work as a business management coach. 

I have also been able to provide free eyecare to underserved communities and advocate for health insurance with affordable healthcare coverage reaching out to millions of Nigerians.

I have also been  elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health in recognition of the impact of my work.

What attracted you to the MBA programme at the University of London? 

It was an easy decision for me because University of London is a prestigious university known for its high-quality academic standards and regarded as a centre for academic excellence. London is also my favourite holiday and shopping spot!

What impact has your University of London degree had on you both personally and professionally? 

The modules challenged me and gave me the nudge I needed to become an entrepreneur. The dynamics of my learning had a pivotal role in my decision to establish EyeWise upon graduation. 

It fostered my independent thinking and analytical skills. I gained confidence as an entrepreneur and traction in public speaking as a health insurance expert. 

What advice would you give to current students who are soon to graduate from the University or graduates wishing to start up their own business? 

My advice would be that changing your mindset to perceive challenges as opportunities is not only a way to survive a start-up business, but also make it exciting. 

You can push yourself to do things you have not done but remember to apply your University of London learnings and watch how far you will go.

What is next for you? Are there any plans and dreams you are willing to share?

Upon my graduation from the MBA International Management in 2016, my dream has been to pursue a PhD at the University of London.