CBE alumna wins statewide entrepreneurship contest

By Cody Boteler on September 3, 2020

Digital tool to boost success for women shares top prize

Adeola presenting her startup
Adeola Ajani presenting her venture proposal, digitally.

Adeola Ajani ’20 recently tied for first place in Innov8MD’s AddVenture Pre-Accelerator program.

The program brought together more than 100 teams from about 15 Maryland high schools, colleges and universities in a six-week process to develop business venture plans. Innov8MD is a TU-founded nonprofit that supports student entrepreneurship through mentoring, programming and competitions like the AddVenture Pre-Accelerator.

Read more about how Innov8MD got started.

Ajani’s venture, Fem Startup, is a digital tool that provides strategies and resources for women to achieve career success and financial security.

Ajani says the idea came to her during a social entrepreneurship class when professor Jan Baum asked her students to think of a problem to solve, Ajani says. She knew she wanted to address the gender pay gap, something that disproportionately impacts women of color.

“There are tons of strong women that have been in my circle and in my community who’ve inspired me,” she says. Ajani also cites women including Oprah Winfrey and Malala Yousafzai as personal heroes.

In tying for first place in the AddVenture Pre-Accelerator, Ajani secured $500 in funding and one-on-one mentoring from Innov8MD. Ajani says Fem Startup is, for now, focused on the Baltimore community, but she wants to expand the company over time.

Her day job is working as an analyst at a local investment bank. But that doesn’t mean she considers Fem Startup a side hustle. For her, it’s just as important as her regular job.

“I don’t like to call Fem Startup my second job,” she says. “I have a nine-to-five. This is my six-to-two.”

Her time in the College of Business & Economics helped her secure her analyst job and pushed her forward in creating a new venture, she says. Towson University was “pivotal” in helping her form connections to get an internship during her junior year, which led to her getting a full-time job.

It’s part of the American identity to make your own way, plow your own road. This is where most new jobs come from. ”

Professor Jan Baum

Towson University has multiple resources and programs for students interested in entrepreneurship or becoming more career ready. The Career Center offers one-on-one career counseling, an online job and internship database, mock interviews, help with resumes and more.

The Student Launch Pad is a dedicated space for students to participate in entrepreneurship competitions and work with peers and mentors to develop ideas and business plans.

TU also offers a minor in entrepreneurship and a concentration in entrepreneurship for business administration majors.

Ajani credits the Career Center and the Student Launch Pad with helping her refine her skills and develop her interests.

“The Student Launch Pad was like a home away from home,” she says.

Baum, who mentors Ajani and is the director of the minor in entrepreneurship, says Ajani exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur.

“She puts herself out there, in a very open way. She’s vivacious, and she’s hungry,” Baum says. “But not at all in an off-putting way. She wants to learn and to advance herself and the people around her.”

Baum says Ajani is emblematic of the entrepreneurial talent that exists in the TU student body.

“It’s always been important,” Baum says. “It’s part of the American identity to make your own way, plow your own road. This is where most new jobs come from.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore, Lifelong Career Center and Diverse and Inclusive Campus.