Women’s History Month: Nena Ugwuomo, Founder & President of Student Dream

This 26-year-old dynamo helps students turn their dreams into viable businesses

(Image: Nena Ugwuomo)
(Image: Nena Ugwuomo)

Nena Ugwuomo is passionate about the entrepreneurial dreams of students. Starting her organization as a young alum of Howard University, she has already held Student Dream events at the White House. I recently sat down to speak with Ugwuomo about her work.

[Related: Entrepreneurs: 5 Starter Steps to Seize Business Opportunities in Cuba]

BlackEnterprise.com: What is Student Dream and why did you start it?

Ugwuomo: I saw that there was this huge pool of students at HBCUs with big ideas. I knew the talent was out there, but I didn’t see the infrastructure of resources that would help these students thrive as entrepreneurs.

I was frustrated. I really believed that these students and their ideas could be successful if they were connected to the right resources. What motivated me to start Student Dream was a belief in the power of a dream. Student Dream does the critical work of unlocking that power. We are an incubator-accelerator exclusively focused on collegiate students of color.

We train students of color to start companies by connecting them to our mentorship programs and community networking programs, so students are connected to the intellectual, social, and financial capital they need to turn their ideas into companies, start new companies, and work at existing companies—because the startups of some students’ that come through our programs may not be successful, but through their startups they’ve gained such incredible work experience that they know how to go into any work environment and be impactful on day one. We work primarily with students of color at HBCUs, but we don’t turn away students of color who attend non-HBCUs.

How do the training and mentoring programs work?

All of our training and mentoring is practitioner-led. We have a network of successful entrepreneurs, investors, and subject experts who teach the curriculum that we design.

We have specific training programs that can range anywhere from a two-hour challenge or talk to a one-day boot camp to a 30-day sprint to hit key milestones. The key concepts we teach are

  • Business model design.
  • Project management.
  • Goal setting.
  • Time management.
  • Team building.
  • Team collaboration.
  • Unit economics.
  • Deal structure.

We believe that to see long-term socio-economic impact in communities of color, there needs to be an emphasis on equity, on people becoming owners, leaders, and influencers, so that’s what we focus on.

Is your network in New York?

It’s global. We leverage technology to make it easier to connect students with entrepreneurs and investors in our network who are as close as New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, the Virgin Islands, and as far as Nigeria, China, and Uganda.

For more about Student Dream, go to www.StudentDream.org.