Abdulquadri Sotomiwa graduated from Loughborough University London in 2022 after completing the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management MSc programme.
Prior to studying for his master’s degree, Abdulquadri studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering BEng (Hons) at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Abdulquadri is now building his own business, where he is continuing his passion of developing new and innovative products.
My journey to Loughborough University London
Tell us about your journey to Loughborough University London. Where did you study before and what subjects did you take?
I studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering for my undergraduate degree, and in school, I was very drawn towards how to build products using the 3D machine. This was how I began my journey as a hardware product designer.
After my undergraduate degree, I attended Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana and that enabled me to transition into digital product design. I began to work for different start-ups and built amazing consumer-facing and enterprise products. I also learnt how to code (using React) and this allowed me to design on Adobe XD and translate my own designs to frontend code. All this meant I had developed enough skills to build anything from scratch myself to a minimal viable product (MVP) stage for testing.
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. I enjoy building and solving problems. However, I noticed I needed to learn how to build truly innovative products, understand product marketing and positioning and be able to manage a team so that I could develop my own business. These prompted me to want to study an MSc programme that could give me a good balance in these three fields I needed to improve on. I researched a number of schools and spoke to my friends. One of them told me so much about Loughborough and I fell in love with the school, so I applied for an MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management.
Did you have an idea of how the Loughborough University London programme would help you in your career?
Absolutely, I mean look at me now! I’m working very hard on my own start-up knowing I have the right skill set to push an idea, validate it, understand how to acquire customers, how to price and how to build a sound financial model. I hope I’m able to truly achieve my dream of building a very sustainable business (maybe IPO someday!). Thinking about it, I think this start-up I'm working on might be acquired.
I think the real stand-out experience for me at Loughborough was I got better as a leader. Most of the modules and events I participated in required forming teams, doing presentations and managing people. I cherish this experience and I think it’s going to help me as I start my own company.
How my scholarship supported me
What scholarship did you receive and how did you obtain it?
I was awarded the prestigious Dean’s Award for Enterprise. After getting my offer to study at Loughborough University London, I applied for the scholarship on the University’s website. It was pretty easy to apply (it’s one of the best university websites I have ever navigated to be honest). I was working on a product in Nigeria and shared its pitch deck and one-pager as my application for the scholarship.
Sometime in August 2021, I got a notification about a call with representatives from the University about the scholarship. I remembered putting on my lucky interview shirt and joined the call. They quizzed me on the idea I submitted and asked in-depth questions about my finances and how I was able to validate it, and I guess they thought I knew what I was doing. I got the email about the award just before I was leaving Nigeria for the UK. I remember feeling so happy. If Loughborough thought I was this ideal for this award, then I was.
How did your scholarship support you?
For starters, I enjoyed a 90% tuition reduction; that helped me save money and I channelled it towards developing my business.
What advice would you give to other students who wish to gain a scholarship?
From when you decide to apply, you have to be able to understand what work will be needed to potentially secure a scholarship. Sheer grit. It’s a prestigious award and I think you need to have what it takes to get it. I sent monthly reports to the Loughborough Enterprise Network (LEN) team about what I had been up to at different times while I was studying.
My advice is that, firstly, understand why the scholarship is important to you. Secondly, understand what you need to demonstrate to secure it. Thirdly, remember it’s a very important award and you have to be willing to put in the work to impress yourself and the people at Loughborough to think you are truly worthy of the award.
My student experience at Loughborough University London
How has the teaching in your institution at Loughborough University London helped further your knowledge of your subject?
The teaching was brilliant and astonishing; I enjoyed myself. Special thanks to Dr Yang Zhao (who was my dissertation supervisor), Professor Aaron Smith (my personal mentor), Dr Indra Widiarto, Dr Kun Fu, Dr Surya Mahdi, Dr Tao Zhang and Professor Gerhard Schnyder. The teaching was practical. One of the modules I really enjoyed was delivered by Dr Surya and Dr Indra. We researched, built solutions for the ‘dental practice of the future’, and wrote our assessment on it as well. It was special because I worked with two amazing course mates (a Brazilian and a Chinese student) and our worldview shaped what we came up with. We scored a fantastic mark in that module.
What interesting things did you learn? Was there a particularly good project that you participated in?
I never saw myself understanding corporate governance with the depth with which it was taught by Professor Gerhard and Dr Ana Cristina Suzina. I was totally blown away at how, as an entrepreneur, one should care about policies because of how they affect the economic landscape of where one is doing business. It was amazing to learn about rule of law concepts, agency theories, etc., and what I learnt will stay with me for a long time. It was hard understanding them but the way it was taught made me enjoy the economics of the business environment. It was special learning in the Loughborough London lecture halls.
Please tell us about any support that you received from your institution’s mentors.
Professor Aaron Smith was very helpful and he helped me shape my thoughts on how to approach product development and testing. Dr Yang Zhao was a true blessing. I worked with her on my final dissertation papers and they have formed the basis of my start-up today; I was able to build my business model with her help and guidance.
What did you think of the social atmosphere on the campus and what was your experience of living in London?
Trust me when I say London is an amazing place to live. I will forever cherish living at Leyton, journeying through Stratford (Westfield), HereEast and the Olympic Park to get to the campus. We have this saying of ‘soft life’, and to me, London is truly the city of ‘soft life’. I am very thankful for the opportunity to live in London.
What piece of advice would you give to prospective students looking to undertake the programme that you studied?
I think that if you truly want to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation management, you need to be very sure it's the right programme to start with. You’ll learn loads of things that’ll help you be a better manager, a much better innovator, and the academic lens just helps you become smarter. The programme experience is wholesome, hands-on and immersive. If what you are looking for is a step up, this is the programme for you.
How my degree has helped me
What has your career path been since you graduated?
I’m still developing this, but I’m taking on product consulting gigs as I try to build my own start-up and raise pre-seed funding.
How do you think your Loughborough University London degree helped you to get to where you are?
In fact, I reference my Loughborough University London degree when speaking with investors and mentors. I am so proud of it and it's doing wonders with allowing me to network even better. I’ve met a handful of alumni connections that have helped me one way or another as well.
Plans for the future
What do you plan to do in the future and how will your Loughborough University London degree help you to achieve that?
I have always researched the older people sector and built products to fit that sector since 2020. I truly hope I am able to build a successful business helping older adults become less socially isolated or lonely as they age. I want a world where, when I'm older too, I can be sure I will be happy. This is why I'm building Ava (formerly GreyFuel.com). My degree has set the foundation for this. My dissertation allowed me to speak with potential users and use the information gathered from them as the basis of the business model for the product.
Why do you think prospective students should choose Loughborough University London?
I really love how supportive the school is. Everyone wants you to enjoy yourself and be successful. The set-up at Loughborough London is very empathetic; if anything, this empathy allowed me to thrive while I was there. Choose Loughborough University London because of this.
What would be the one piece of advice that you would give to prospective students who are interested in studying at Loughborough University London?
I'd say something I learnt from my Kenyan friend, which is ‘Kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba’. This means ‘Little by little fills the cup’. Loughborough will help you fill your cup, whatever your goal is.