After Mary Olushoga ’06 graduated, her father said, “Everything about you has changed.” And she, who won myriad awards at Union and was part of everything from UNITAS to founding the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir, responded, “Of course, that’s why I chose Union.”
It’s this growth she experienced that’s enabled Olushoga, in turn, to help others help themselves.
In 2012, after working in economic development for several organizations, she founded the African Women Power (AWP) Network. As the first Good Maker/Oxfam America International Women’s Challenge Day Winner, she used the small grant that came with the award to launch the online platform, which supports African entrepreneurs (particularly women).
“I launched the AWP Network as a solution to the unemployment issue facing Africa, especially Nigeria as the most populous country,” said Olushoga, who moved from Lagos, Nigeria to the U.S. in 1998. “If we provide a supportive community to African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, they will be sustainable and in turn create jobs.”
The AWP Network provides business resources and training, educational tools and consultations on entrepreneurship. To date it has engaged over 750 entrepreneurs, many of them women, in a variety of fields. The organization is also partnering with the WAAW Foundation, specifically to increase engagement and the number of girls in STEM disciplines.
Olushoga, who majored in sociology and minored in African-American Studies and dance at Union, is also intensely dedicated to raising the profile of African entrepreneurs in the media. She does this as a columnist for The Huffington Post and GE Ideas Lab, and through her many professional and philanthropic efforts.
Olushoga has served as a Public Policy Fellow at the University of Albany, Center for Women in Government and Civil Society. She has presented her work on women entrepreneurs at the U.S. Department of Labor, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and the Rockerfeller Foundation Tech Salon, to name a few. She has also been featured on BBC World News, Black Enterprise and BET Networks.
The level of exposure Olushoga brings African women through these channels won her the International Media Person of the Year Award from Women4Africa in 2014.
“It was a wonderful honor,” she said. “Telling the stories of women entrepreneurs is such an important part of what I am able to do.”
To learn more about the AWP Network, visit http://awpnetwork.com/