RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 1


Andrew Ologunebi

BSc Product and Design Management
University of Aston

Andrew Ologunebi

This year’s number one proves that if you put your mind to great things, there is absolutely nothing that should prevent you from achieving your dreams. Andrew’s story hits home to those who have witnessed or experienced social conflict or violence, and feel as if there is no way out. His determination to do well for himself and give back to his mother deserves to be recognised by all.

Andrew was born in Nigeria and lived there until the age of 10. His mother gave birth to him at the age of 22 while in her final year at university. Andrew’s mother had just lost her father, so her mum looked after her and her nine siblings. Andrew’s mum was pressured to abort him, but her stubbornness in wanting to keep the baby prevailed. Andrew respects and looks up to his mother more than anyone else. Despite his mother having worked hard to earn herself a PhD, when they first moved to the UK, she had to work at a McDonalds; the family lived in a one-bedroom apartment.

When he started his secondary school, he got in with the wrong crowd and was involved in several fights. One day after school when he was 14 years old, a group of older boys confronted him, and ended up stabbing him outside of the school. An ambulance came to take him to the hospital, where he soon discovered that he was very close to death. Despite this, he was still determined to go and fight the boys that did this to him. His mother decided that it was best for the family to move before it escalated any further. He moved to Crownwoods School, where he initially got into several fights. When he started to settle in, his behaviour started to gradually improve and this allowed him to channel his energy into his academic interests as part of his school’s top set.

Andrew started his entrepreneurial journey by founding his first clothing brand company a few months later. Impressively, he was able to sell hundreds of items. During his teenage years, Andrew worked as an Assistant Graphic Designer at a studio in London. After saving enough money to buy his own camera, he set up his first graphic design and photography company at 15 years old. He ended up designing websites and brands for friends and family and this eventually reached customers outside of his network. Afterwards, he completed an Engineering internship at Thames Tideway Tunnel. From this point, he started to think bigger. Andrew took a job at a construction company working as a part-time labourer. When he had enough money saved, he set up his own design and photography studio in London at the age of 17. He then revisited his clothing brand idea and founded Rich Coast. Rich Coast was acquired by the ‘Junaid Nadir’ brand, and its strategy is incorporated in the ‘JNLux’ fashion range.

“I worked with a lot of start-up businesses to get their ideas up to a marketable level and did all of the marketing.”

Since going to Aston University, his entrepreneurial and design skills have made him stand out from the crowd. At the age of 19, Andrew registered and launched his design firm GDFusion. During his placement year while studying at Aston, he ran his own company full-time and secured international contracts, which enabled him to travel to Madrid and Barcelona. He ended up travelling to San Francisco for 6 months and worked as a Brand, Product and User Experience Consultant. In Silicon Valley, he consulted 4 different companies and helped to secure investments totalling £1.2m. Examples of organisations within his consultancy portfolio include: ALDI and their security affiliates, Dot-Consult and a Mercedes dealership.

He has consulted pre-and post-investment start-ups, leading the design team for two of them (BluewordAi and Mehuva) during their 7-figure Series A investment rounds in San Francisco. He was offered a full-time position at both firms but rejected the offers to focus on his own company. During one of his own consultancy projects, he became the co-founder and Principal Designer of Venpla (an AI-driven event platform).

Aston’s African-Caribbean Society appointed Andrew as their Creative Director. During this time, he rebranded the group and developed the ACS magazine. His creative efforts led to a total of £3,000 in sponsorship from Accenture and Deutsche Bank. The ACS magazine evolved and became a registered company called ACShub, a national Afro-Caribbean student hub, which has a magazine front-end and a customised dashboard back-end. This gave ACS committees the tool to create their own website (code-free), manage events and their members. ACShub, now rebranded as Vybl has a team, which has expanded to almost 60 students across the country, all working to redefine how young black people engage with content. The project has been backed and partially funded by BSeen and the European Regional Development Fund.

Andrew had a vision of applying his user experience background into a conference tailored to young people. He then founded ‘Unlock’, a bespoke conference integrating professional value and entertainment. Andrew built a team of 20 students and within 6-8 weeks, launched the pilot event in Canary Wharf without funding. Over 100 young people attended and this has led to sponsorship interest in the event. The annual conference will be officially launched in September 2018.

Elevation Networks selected Andrew to attend the ‘Uncovering Prospects’ event at Goldman Sachs, and he was invited to speak at the Baker McKenzie BAME Leadership Conference in partnership with SEO London on ‘Levering Branding Principles to Fuel Cohesive Engagement’. His talents continued to be noticed: he was one of the 5% who were selected for Google’s Top Black Talent Programme and was shortlisted for a job through this. Salesforce has also offered him a full-time role as the first graduate UX designer at their London office, which he has now accepted. He was selected as an Uprising leadership candidate in Birmingham, where his team launched an app called E.Mission to enable people to track the effects of their diet on the environment. This has captured the attention of thousands of people and the launch event included the attendance of local MPs. This contributed to him being nominated and winning the Roy Anthony Reid Foundation award for creative ability

Among his long list of achievements, Andrew was shortlisted for a Fulbright Scholarship, was top two for Aston Design Week Competition and recently won the Aston University Inspired award for his academic work. Since the stabbing, Andrew made the choice to turn his life around, and has flourished and thrived ever since. He is considering doing a PhD and is currently writing a book called ‘The Art of Growing Up’ to inspire young people to pursue their ambitions, even when the going gets rough.

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