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The Heart of a Young Entrepreneur

Growing up in southeastern Nigeria, Onyemauchechukw Justice Nwigwe (UWC-USA, St. Olaf ’18) looked up to his grandfather, a businessman and farmer. What “Papa Theo” taught him, Justice says, is “what I take going forward — that no matter what your business is or how big you are, you have to keep thinking about the community.”

During his first year at St. Olaf, Justice stopped into the office of Roberto Zayas, associate director of the college’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career. “We chatted for a while,” Zayas says, “then he pitched this idea he had, for a fish farm back home. He said, ’I think I can make this work, where people will have access to quality catfish for a significantly lower price.’”

After developing a business plan and presenting it to a faculty/staff panel, Justice won grants from two college entrepreneurship programs — and in summer 2015 he went home and started Papa Theo’s Fish Farm. During nearly two years in operation, the business sold several thousand catfish, and reinvested a total of about $4,500 into the community.

“I’ve always had an interest in business, and I’ve always had this passion for helping people,” says Justice, who raised an additional $2,000, mostly from St. Olaf alumni, along with $8,000 from the college grants for his fish farm.

No longer able to sustain the operation during a junior-year internship with the UN Development Programme in Copenhagen, last year Justice let the fish farm close down. Then last fall he was selected by the college to travel to Oslo, Norway in January, to work with a biotechnology start-up there. “He’s a well-liked, smart, hardworking young man — very entrepreneurial,” observes Zayas. “He doesn’t require any pushing at all. He just comes to you and tells you what he wants to do.”