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Tops in Atlantic Canada

Business student wins $35,000 award

By Susan White

A Nigerian business student has become the twentieth Memorial student to be named one of the best in Atlantic Canada.

Daniel Okoro-Igwe, 22, is one of nine winners of the 2021-22 Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies.

The $35,000 award recognizes entrepreneurial students and considers academic achievement, employment history, university and community leadership, and career aspirations.

“It’s a very humbling feeling,” said Mr. Okoro-Igwe. “It makes me able to sit down and think about what the future is going to entail without worrying about finances.”

William Hickey, a fifth-year bachelor of commerce (co-operative) student from Outer Cove, N.L., is one of 21 remaining nominees who will receive $3,500 each.

‘I grew curious’

Mr. Okoro-Igwe began his studies at Memorial in 2018 and is in his final year of the bachelor of business administration program.

He’s originally from Isiagu, Nigeria, where he hails from an entrepreneurial family. His mother owns several businesses in a variety of industries across Nigeria.

“I got to see what it was like. I grew curious about it,” he says of that early exposure to the business world.

Mr. Okoro-Igwe started his first business, which involved researching and selling personalized supplements, at Acadia University, where he completed a year of studies before coming to Memorial.

In 2021 he launched Oraku Solutions, offering advisory services focused on operations efficiency to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Daniel Okoro-Igwe sits on a bench in a weight room. A large dumbbell rests on the floor in front of him.
When he’s not studying, volunteering or working, Daniel Okoro-Igwe enjoys natural body building and spends a lot of time in the gym.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

But a keen interest in fitness has been a running theme in his personal and entrepreneurial ventures.

He’s a natural body builder and, in 2018, launched an initiative called Physical Fitness for Mental Wellness to offer fitness advice, training programs and nutritional guidance as well as promote the connection between physical and mental health.

“It’s something that I find helped me personally, and something that I try to use to help other people,” he said of his focus on fitness.

Active volunteer

Mr. Okoro-Igwe will graduate this spring with a GPA of 3.81. He was named to the Dean’s List for 2020-21.

He’s an active volunteer at Memorial, where he’s been a Welcome Week leader, a member of MUN Mentors, an analyst with The Fund and a mentor with the Nigerian Student Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I think it’s really important for not just me but anyone to help out the community that you are a part of in any way you can.” — Daniel Okoro-Igwe

He’s also participated in and led teams for the Polka Dot Trot 5K Walk for Cancer, the YMCA Create Your Own Change program and the Virtual Walk for Alzheimer’s, and he’s a personal disaster assistance team volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross in St. John’s.

Mr. Okoro-Igwe is driven by a desire to improve both himself and the communities in which he lives.

“I think it’s really important for not just me but anyone to help out the community that you are a part of in any way you can. It brings people together and it helps your community develop better.”

Pandemic perspective

He aims to incorporate this perspective into his career, as well.

In the short-term, he plans to complete the education program to become a chartered professional accountant and attend graduate school. Longer term, he wants to launch a consulting company to help startups and small- to medium-sized businesses.

“Any interaction I make, I get satisfaction leaving it better than I found it.”

His part-time work as a team lead for Paladin Security during the pandemic opened his eyes to the needs of small businesses, he says.

“The pandemic gave me more of a sharper perspective of how many businesses or organizations in general were not prepared for abrupt changes. I saw a need for it in the community for these businesses to have a resource to go to that will help guide them.”

Mr. Okoro-Igwe has worked for Paladin since 2019 and helped develop pandemic-related security and safety protocols for Eastern Health facilities. He received a medal of recognition for his hard work and dedication.

“I’ve always had that zeal for value-add and productivity,” he said. “Any interaction I make, I get satisfaction leaving it better than I found it.”

The winners of the Frank H. Sobey Awards for Excellence in Business Studies were recognized in a ceremony in Halifax, N.S., on March 17.

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