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Quest: Owning a business while still in college

Opening students' eyes to opportunity.

Quest: Owning a business while still in college by Laura L. Hunt

When Ogechi Chidebell arrived in Milwaukee in 2011, she relied heavily on her smartphone to get to know the city.

“Even though I didn’t know my way around, I could walk downtown and wouldn’t feel lost,” says Chidebell, a Lubar School of Business Executive MBA student from Nigeria. “I didn’t have to feel like an outsider in Wisconsin.”

One thing the Student Startup Challenge did was open my eyes that I really could do something that would change the lives of people.

Ogechi Chidebell, Executive MBA student

She navigated with Google maps and chose restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses based on online review sites like Yelp.

“I realized that this information is something that Nigerians don’t have.” In fact, Chidebell says, many small businesses in Nigeria never appear in Google searches.

That realization inspired her winning entry in UWM’s Student Startup Challenge (SSC), an app called Agogo Network. Named for a gong-like instrument used in ancient Nigeria to announce important events,

Chidebell’s Agogo platform would provide listings and reviews for restaurants, tailors, beauty salons and entertainment venues.

“It’s creating a ‘Yelp’ for Nigeria,” Chidebell says.

While taking a UWM course called IT Infrastructure, she learned that Google search results are based on back-links to existing web pages. Few Nigerian small-business owners can afford websites, Chidebell says. Yet what Nigeria does have is one of the highest numbers of mobile phones in use in the world.

Chidebell knew that a mobile app would be where she would find opportunity.

“One thing the Student Startup Challenge did was open my eyes that I really could do something that would change the lives of people,” she says.

In addition to Agogo Network, the winners include:

Aquasensor: Marcia Silva and Tom Hansen

Aquasensor: Marcia Silva and Tom Hansen

Aquasensor: A hand-held device that lowers the cost and turnaround time for detecting bacteria in drinking water (Tom Hansen, freshwater sciences, and Marcia Silva, engineering).

Augment-H: Equipment and data-recording software that improve data collection on lower back pain (Scott Johannes, Katrina Carriveau, Jackie Beranek, Hillary Jackson, Ying Xiong, Heather Tomeo and Marie Wavrunek, health sciences).

Abakus: Josh Kirk and Hunter Ruth

Abakus: Josh Kirk and Hunter Ruth

Abakus: Education Adventure: A space-themed adventure game for children that tracks learning and delivers progress reports to teachers and parents (Hunter Ruth and Josh Kirk, graphic design).

LEVEL Camera Products: Portable camera mounting systems that are affordable and high quality (Kyle Ilenda, engineering).

E-Trap: Alex Francis and Jorg Woehl, associate professor of chemistry

E-Trap: Alex Francis and Jorg Woehl

Electrostatic Particle Trap (E-Trap): Based on patented technology developed by Jorg Woehl, associate professor of chemistry, E-Trap confines a single particle, like a virus or DNA molecule, in order to view and analyze it individually through a microscope (Alex Francis, engineering).

Mesmer: A better method of registering for UWM courses (Andrew McConville, information studies).

Sale Cou.pair: An app that creates a simple storage system for managing clipped coupons (Andrea Pasqualetto, business).