Ashan-wa Aliogo ’17 has always had an interest in business.
“I knew I really wanted to pursue business, and the I&E certificate was the closest offering that Duke had,” she said. “I knew I wanted a hands-on approach because I really learn by doing. I wanted to take what I learned and apply it to real life, and I feel the I&E certificate really combines that learning experience with real-life application.”
With the help of what she’s learned from the certificate, she has started and grown her business, Laja. What began as a blog to promote positive aspects of the culture of her native Nigeria has transformed into a business complete with an e-commerce platform to sell her designs using African prints and textiles.
When Aliogo, an international and comparative studies major focusing on French, graduates, she plans to continue to grow Laja while also spending time gaining more experience in the fashion industry.
But Aliogo already has considerable experience under her belt through the internships she’s completed for her certificate requirements.
She spent one summer in Nigeria working on her second collection for Laja, collaborating with Nigerian tailors to source fabric and creating designs and concepts for the business.
She also held a merchandising internship with Belk, which gave her firsthand insight about how the retail arena operates.
“It was a good experience because I was able to apply a lot of what I learned there to Laja,” she said.
Aliogo sees herself eventually returning to Nigeria to work in the fashion and retail sector there.
Not only did her summer experiences help her build Laja, but the innovation and entrepreneurship classes she took were also critical.
Most recently, Aliogo finished up the senior capstone class required of all certificate students.
“We had to come up with a business idea,” she said. “I already had my business, so it was really cool being able to work on that in class – getting feedback from my professors, getting feedback from my classmates, as well. It was almost like I wasn’t doing school, in a sense – I was doing what I love, but also learning and getting feedback and merging my business with my Duke experience and my Duke academic career.”
Aliogo maintains that entrepreneurship teaches one a lot about him or herself, and credits her entrepreneurial experience with steering her away from the pre-med track she once pursued.
Classes she took for the certificate also helped her change her perspective, she said. Many of the classes encouraged students to look at failure as an inevitable learning experience.
“That really helped me change my perception of learning and my whole attitude toward learning,” she said. “I was more focused on learning and gaining knowledge rather than, ‘What do I have to do to get this grade?’”
To learn more about Ashan-wa’s experiences as an I&E certificate student, watch this video.