WSSU student pushing for unique business venture to take off
(pictured above: Ram Connect founder Chinaemeze Kelsey Okoro (center) with Quentin Slade (left) and Kyle Brown.)
As Greensboro native Chinaemeze Kelsey Okoro prepares for his graduation from Winston-Salem State University tomorrow, he is making plans to leave behind a legacy that he hopes will impact his alma mater and the community for years to come.
The 21-year-old is the visionary behind Ram Connect, a new initiative that he hopes will someday be a source of income, both for him and local businesses.
Restaurants, shops and other businesses pay a fee to be listed on the Ram Connect Web site and app, Okoro says, and members of the Winston-Salem State family will use their student or staff ID cards or proof of their alumni status to receive discounts at those businesses.
“The whole concept is pretty much a helping circle,” explained Okoro, an exercise science major. “I just want to help businesses, and I want to help students, faculty and staff and alumni – the whole school.”
During his sophomore year, Okoro, who is in a dual enrollment program at Wake Forest University, said he noticed that Wake students were often afforded perks and discounts at area retailers and eateries, simply by flashing their school IDs. Yet, when Okoro produced his WSSU ID, he was repeatedly denied such benefits.
“It made me feel a little bit upset,” he confessed. “From there, I was just thinking about how can I change things.”
Ram Connect is his solution. He spent last summer creating a business plan for the company, which will consist of a Web site – and later a smartphone and tablet app – where WSSU students, staff and alumni can find exclusive discounts and sales offered by local businesses.
Okoro believes the concept is a win-win for the companies, which will gain exposure and unprecedented access to the more than 7,000 students, faculty and staff, and the WSSU family, who will enjoy the money-saving benefits.
“The Web site will be up 24/7 so students, faculty and staff will have access all day,” explained Okoro, who said feedback from businessowners has been positive. “It’s a very cost effective way to promote or market their business.”
Okoro has recruited fellow Rams Quentin Slade and Kyle Brown to oversee the implementation of the project and ensure that it continues beyond Okoro’s tenure. He has also garnered the help of university administrators to make his entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Slade, a freshman business administration major, said he believes Okoro’s vision will inspire his fellow Rams and others.
“…I think it’s going to set a precedent, and it’s going to motivate other young, black males – and black females – to shoot for their passion and believe that anything is possible.”
Brown, a sophomore biology major and VP of the Student Government Association, said he jumped at the chance to get involved in the project.
“He showed me the business plan, and I felt like, why not get on board? That was something I always thought of, but I never thought of actually making a business plan, so I wanted to be a part of it to help out the WSSU community” he related. “…It’s what we should be doing. We should be setting the standard for others to follow.”
City Council Member James Taylor, who is a WSSU employee, praised the project, which he says could be a great economic driver for the city and a means of retaining the elusive young professional population.
“I thought it was a great idea. On one hand, you can help businesses, you can help patrons, and you can be an entrepreneur. I think it’ll have a huge impact on commerce in Winston-Salem. Not only is that important, but you’re creating jobs for young people,” Taylor noted. “…It gives our students – and all of the students at the university – an opportunity to have an impact on the world.”
Ram Connect has been a walk of faith for Okoro, who also serves as president of the Beta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The Web site is slated to launch in late August, and the app is set for release by the end of the year. Okoro is headed to Baltimore for an internship this summer, but if his venture is successful, he plans to return to WSSU in the fall and pursue a master’s degree while managing Ram Connect.
“With all this happening, it’s nothing but the grace of God, really,” he declared. “He’s just allowing us to work in his grace and mercy, and this is what we came up with.”
For more information about Ram Connect, contact Okoro at 336-965-2635 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.