What started as a way to make extra money transformed an Ohio State student into an entrepreneur.
Ogochukwu Obiagwu, a fourth-year in accounting, said she had no idea when she started making clothes for her friends at 12 years old she was in the process of becoming the founder of her own clothing line.
ByOgochukwu clothing is a reflection of her bicultural background, Obiagwu said. Growing up in Columbus, she said she battled with being teased for having a “complicated name” and being Nigerian-American, which discouraged her from embracing her Nigerian ethnicity.
In 2008, she went to Nigeria with her family and said she began to love her identity. Obiagwu said she wanted to create a way for people with bicultural backgrounds to express themselves.
Obiagwu said she learned how to cut jeans into shorts and make jewelry by watching YouTube videos in 2012. As she started posting photos of her work on Instagram, Obiagwu said many people wanted to buy her clothes.
“Around 2015, I started making designs that incorporated Ankara and Kente African prints, to represent West African culture,” Obiagwu said.
Obiagwu said she wanted to modernize African wear and combat misconceptions about African fashion by showing people they can wear their cultural pride. Her clothing line represents West African streetwear, including hoodies, T-shirts and distressed denim for men and women.
As a first-year at Ohio State, Obiagwu was invited to the Midwest African Student Organization Conference in 2016 at Northern Kentucky University to showcase her designs. The conference includes African organizations across the Midwest, Obiagwu said.
Ra-Akhenaten Kudolo, founder of MASO, said he first saw Obiagwu’s designs on Instagram.
“As a casual guy, her fashion line is exactly what I’d wear. I love that she has the African prints on the pockets; it embraces the culture,” Kudolo said.
Through the connections she made at the MASO conference, Obiagwu said she designed shirts for students in the Miami University African Organization, Fashion Forward Cincinnati Kids Fashion Show, Ohio State’s African Night and the Black Student Association Fashion Show.
“It was a one-man show; I was struggling with being a full-time student and a professional trying to make orders on time,” Obiagwu said. “I realized I needed team members I could rely on.”
Obiagwu said that at the end of her freshman year, she hosted an information session for aspiring models, photographers and videographers to become brand ambassadors. Her aim was to create a platform for people to build portfolios by helping with her brand.
Obiagwu said Ohio State’s resources helped her learn how to create a professional business.
“Without this brand, I would’ve never met so many people,” Obiagwu said.
Since moving from Instagram to its online store in 2014, ByOgochukwu has sold to roughly 150 customers and hired 18 brand ambassadors, Obiagwu said in a text message.
Obiagwu said she plans to give back to the community by using what she’s learned from her brand and in business school to help students with their professionalism and career paths.
ByOgochukwu’s website sells clothing ranging from $12 to $30 at byogochukwu.bigcartel.com.