Obi Ugochukwu is the founder and CEO of the African Caribbean Company, a technology start-up based in Manchester. After studying International Business, Finance and Economics at the University of Manchester he was struck with an idea for a new social media site.
Africancaribbeansociety.com is a social networking community for African and Caribbean students at universities across the UK. Launched in 2009, the website is set to become the largest social networking website for the African and Caribbean university community in Europe. Obi was nominated as the Manchester Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2009 Institute of Directors Awards and was a runner up for the 2009 BB Innovation award. His company has won several awards including the Global Entrepreneurship Week Unleash It competition and the 2009 NW EMBF Rising Star.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
The freedom to think creatively and apply my thinking towards making a business problem disappear and change into a commercial success.
Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010 is all about busting myths about entrepreneurs. In starting your business what key things have you discovered?
I have learnt the value of building a strong support network. The best form of support I think are other entrepreneurs as you can share knowledge, contacts and individual successes as you grow together.
What have been the challenges of starting your business?
Our main challenge was cash investment. We overcame this by streamlining our operation (making every penny count) and thinking longterm (not looking at short-term returns, but reinvesting back into the business to grow organically).
What’s it like to be a Virgin Media Pioneer?
Virgin Media Pioneers is a great network of like-minded people. I’m inspired by the stories of other young entrepreneurs in the network and have made useful friends and contacts through the Virgin Media Pioneers online platform.
What would you say to someone who has an idea, but hasn’t taken the step to turn it into a business?
Get stuck in as soon as possible. There’s never a best time to get started, the longer you hold it off the more difficult it becomes because you have too much time to rationalize your decision! Being an entrepreneur is instinctive and you need that quality to identify good opportunities, partnerships and collaborations.
Why do you think other people should consider starting their own businesses at the moment?
I think your business is your baby. Running a business is a personal journey and don’t always expect other people to be as passionate or as interested in your business as you are. You are the powerhouse of your venture and you are the one who needs to go out there and sell it to the world and make them see what you see. If that is not enough reason to get you excited, then running your own business might not be for you! If you have an idea and believe it can make the world a better place then you should definitely get out there and try and make it happen.
Many people might think it scary to start a business in the grips of a recession, what do you think?
I think the recession presents a great opportunity to start your own business. We started the AC Company at the heart of the recession (2008) and I must admit it has been much more difficult as most of our clients are experiencing cuts across their businesses; but it has equally been super-exciting to be part of this adventure and only time will justify if we were right or wrong. A wise man once told me: ‘A tree that withstands a storm is better prepared to face the next one than a tree which has never experienced such force’. Tough times only make you more resilient, in other words.
Who inspires you?
Steve Jobs has been one of my great inspirations. It’s amazing what he has achieved. His ability to drive his industry and confidence to invent and re-invent is a skill I admire. Google is another of my major inspirations; for me, they epitomize my ideal business and organisational culture.
Virgin Media Pioneers is a place for young entrepreneurs to ‘make their ideas happen’. It’s an online community where you can get help to develop your idea, pick up new skills and create your own network. For more information visit www.virginmediapioneers.com