In May 2022, Abolaji Omitogun graduated from the prestigious American University Kogod School of Business. This is significant because when he gained admission into the MBA program, he had only $3K to his name but needed to figure out how to pay for his tuition. Fundraising his dream to further his education became his mission. Through a highly strategized and organized means using the gofundme vehicle as his portal, he gathered his friends, family, mentors and called upon everyone in his network. This was no small feat but for Omitogun, there was no other way around this than to approach his community. He was not ready to give up on his education without a true fight.
In his fundraising message, he stated:
“I am Abolaji, an aspiring young Nigerian, entrepreneur, and community service enthusiast. And I have been offered admission into Kogod Business School. Whilst this is great news to my friends, community & I, I am challenged and unable to meet the huge financial obligation that comes with it. I fear I might be another unfortunate case of someone without the privilege and capacity at education.”
In the 1970s, education brought a large number of Nigerians to the United States. The Nigerian government would fund scholarships for Nigerians to flourish at universities and establish professional careers in the United Kingdom and the United States. Furthermore, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which permitted Africans to enter the United States at the time, made it possible for Nigerians to participate in American life. Today, a lot has changed both in the Nigerian government and the provisions for its citizens and on the U.S immigrations front. The immigrant pursuit of the American dream – the concept that everyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they belong to, can achieve in America if they work hard enough – is at the heart of it all.
The story of Abolaji Omitogun is one worth sharing, it tells of the story of a young immigrant who against all odds, achieved his goal of attending MBA school without student debt and raising an estimated $100K. An incredible feat, when considering the average cost of attending an MBA in the U.S exceeds $100,000 including tuition, estimated living expenses, insurance, and fees; conflate that with the average student debt of $74,707 according to SoFi.
Omitogun unapologetically pursued the race to raise his MBA tuition wholeheartedly. The MBA program was reportedly worth about $100K in total, luckily Omitogun was granted a whopping $65K scholarship, leaving him with almost a $40K balance to figure out.
Through the wild efforts of his friends and supporters, Omitogun raised on the gofundme platform a sum of $10,581 from over a hundred and thirty donors. Of course, he still had a balance. $24,753 was raised in the form of in-kind donations to cover room and board for his first year in the MBA. He also received an additional $10K in scholarship from American University which totaled $75K from the university. This relentless Nigerian immigrant clearly is a goal-getter.
Before moving to the US for his fellowship with Atlas Corps, a service-oriented international exchange program for young business professionals, Omitogun launched a restaurant business in Ibadan, Nigeria, where he went to college; served as a business strategy consultant for several small businesses; and worked for a fashion e-commerce start-up company. He has always been ambitious and exhibited entrepreneurial attitude.
While at AU’s Kogod Business School, Omitogun continued to excel academically and socially. He continued building his portfolio of real-world business experience, taking advantage of the school’s hands-on learning opportunities to grow the skills he needed to succeed. He competed in the Venture Capitalism Investment Competition (VCIC), became a runner-up in the AU Center for Innovation’s (AUCI) business hackathon and got accepted into the AUCI entrepreneurship incubator.
He was interviewed on Kogod’s MBA website and newsletter about the reason he’s interested in investing in his own business savviness as an MBA student. He responded by saying:
“I’m really driven by my desire to create opportunities for young people in Africa. As a venture capitalist, I hope to raise funds to invest in African entrepreneurs, giving them exposure to larger amounts of financing.”
For Omitogun, he dreams of founding a venture capital company, his most ambitious entrepreneurial pursuit yet.
“The two-year Kogod’s MBA program is an experience I would forever be grateful for.” he says.
“Despite the enduring challenges, I must humbly and proudly admit I achieved a lot. I forged new life-long friendships across continents, served as the Director of programming for the entire graduate school students on the Graduate Leadership Council, and gained extensive knowledge into the world of Venture Capital leading the Kogod Private Equity & Venture Capital Club. I also learned from Flutterwave Inc, Africa’s largest Fintech company, being part of the critical investor relations and engagement team. This MBA experience also afforded me opportunities to delve into the world of strategy consulting with Microsoft back startup Kano Computing, SMEs fashion brands like Stephanie Wolf Designs and in unfamiliar territories such as in Blockchain with MacroSolutions.” ~Abolaji Omitogun~
He wants to say a big thank you to American University and the Kogod School of Business for the solid academic program. “It is equally important to point out AU’s good support, intentional and well-meaning moves towards supporting all students, especially international students even though more can be done,” he said.
The University does a good job at supporting and providing opportunities for its student’s needs. Some of the few he befitted include The AU scholarship, Kogod scholarship, Cash prices from Competition (VCIC, Startup & Startout, AU Hackathon), Conference and professional development sponsorship, etc. Other support programs the school offers include but are not limited to Student emergency funds, Meal swipe, AU Market. Certainly, he would recommend American University – Kogod School of Business over and over again as a top choice for school.
The cohort program had an interesting and almost even distribution of International and American nationals. He is of the opinion that an MBA program without international students is simply a glorified high school program. There is something about international students that they bring into various programs; beyond checking the box of program diversity. It is the sense of community, love, friendship, greater understanding, and dependability.
The average immigrant’s will to succeed is unrelenting. Stopping at nothing to achieve their goals and dreams. This he believes is one of the many factors that makes immigrants a valuable addition to America
Omitogun plans to join the start-up world, using this as a stepping stone toward his goal of founding his venture capital firm. “Start-ups are an exciting place to be. They’re dynamic because you get to do anything and everything,” he says. “They’re also what really create employment and get the economy going.”
Joining his best friend Adedayo Fashanu on her business on TANTV, a media company and editorial subscription streaming service targeted at Africans and the multicultural global diaspora was undoubtedly the best part of it all. Along with his lifelong friend Tojola Bolaji, he also co-founded CakeLagos, an online store for cakes and gifts that today employs roughly eight people and has two locations in Lagos, Nigeria. He also joined Luceque, a top Korean American product marketing and incubation company, with joy. Luceque is the company behind INBEBEO, a platform for sustainable consumer products.
He is eager to note that his narrative would not have been possible without the Pattersons’ enormous support and assistance, who were like family and parents to him. He also expressed great appreciation to everyone that had been a part of his journey and to the army of supporters, loved ones, family and friends, acquaintances who came to the rescue from the early days of his crowdfunding to the very end of his program.
For him, he is just getting started.