Uyi Omorogbe ’19 is looking to jumpstart Africa’s future economic development.
A first-generation American, economics major, and budding entrepreneur, Omorogbe created clothing company NaSo in 2017 to support individuals within Nigeria and communities throughout the African continent.
NaSo clothing features modern, Nigerian-inspired designs, created by local Nigerian tailors. Omorogbe promotes African clothing on the global stage by taking a minimalist approach in design while creating products that can be worn by all people to any event. Profits from sales fund renovations and supplies for local Nigerian schools.
The community-first approach, according to Omorogbe, allows his company to provide economic opportunities for Nigerians. This intentional decision to base the company’s operations in Nigeria came only after overcoming misconceptions, built during his childhood, about the region’s opportunity for development.
“When I was younger, I’d go to Nigeria and visit all of my family that I don’t see often because I’m living in America,” said Omorogbe. “But I never really saw Nigeria as a space for opportunity.”
While in Nigeria, he recognized that people more often viewed America, rather than their own country, as the primary land of opportunity. He had made the same assumption and had hoped to enter into a career focused on contributing positively to society in the United States. Like many children of immigrants, Omorogbe was pushed to appreciate his American upbringing by pursuing the highest levels of education and career while being immersed in Nigerian culture at home.
“There are four things you can be in a Nigerian family,” Omorogbe jokes, “A lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, or a disgrace to the family. I always wanted to help people and thought that becoming a physician was the only job that could do this. But, during my sophomore year, one of my best friends encouraged me to start my own company like he had done.”
Omorogbe read about entrepreneurs around the world who believed in spurring development in their own countries and changed his point of view. He joined Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) program and started appreciating Africa as the land of future economic prosperity
I always wanted to help people and thought that becoming a physician was the only job that could do this. But, during my sophomore year, one of my best friends encouraged me to start my own company …Uyi Omorogbe ’19
“TIA is a hidden gem that has taught me a lot of things — how to network and how to pitch both your idea and yourself,” said Omorogbe. “We have these amazing alumni mentors who come back and give you the knowledge that they’ve accumulated throughout their entire careers.”
Wills Hapworth ’07, alumni executive director at TIA, has seen more than 314 student-led ventures throughout the decade-long history of the entrepreneur program. NaSo, says Hapworth, is bolstered by Omorogbe’s driven spirit.
“He has so much natural talent,” Hapworth said. “By going down the path, trying out ideas over and over again, he has created what I think is going to be a very successful company.”
A year after entering into the TIA program, Omorogbe has now created a product that enables him to share his family’s culture while giving back to under-resourced communities.
In 2018, Omorogbe traveled to Nigeria to visit Urhokuosa village, his father’s birthplace, and meet with community members, who described their needs at the local Okuosa Primary School. From there, he decided that NaSo would help launch a community effort to begin to renovate schools throughout Africa and offer students a better educational experience.
“For them to see someone who is young like them and of the same blood — as my father is from the same village — it gives these young students hope,” said Omorogbe. “The kids have no idea that I’m planning to renovate their school, but I want them to see that, when you follow your dreams and work hard, you can achieve anything that you set your mind to.”