Young Black Entrepreneurs & Innovators Share What Inspires Them To Succeed

February 26, 2014  |  

Anaelechi Owunwanne: Business Owner, Nigerian, born in Upstate New York, raised in Kuwait.

Anaelechi Owunwanne is an architect with 15 years of professional experience. Before starting his own architectural company, FF+D (Freeform+Deform, LLC) in 2009, Owunwanne worked as a project architect to complete four hotel projects in Manhattan. FF+D is a creative collective that engages in a broad spectrum of architecture, design and visual media.

Anaelechi Owunwanne: Architecture continues to be a one percent minority field in the US. But the person who helped inspire me was Benjamin Banneker, an African-American scientist, almanac author, surveyor, and farmer born in 1731, who mapped out Washington, DC. Banneker taught me that regardless of how different I look from the status quo, ultimately, my work will speak for itself.

The biggest lesson I have learned about being a black architect in America is to not sacrifice your personal creativity in an attempt to “fit in.” Your success lies in your individuality and ability to stand out. Constantly put out the best work you can and in due course that will be what shapes peoples impression of you regardless of how you challenge the “norm.”

My advice to those coming behind me is to decide on the lifestyle you wish to live first, even before beginning your job search. It may turn out to be a part-time job that allows you the free time needed to follow your dreams. Just keep in mind that if you opt to start your own business instead of punching in a 9-to-5, be prepared to start working 24/7. When done well, being an entrepreneur is more a lifestyle, not a hobby.

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