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Chisom is a Marketing Specialist for STL-based startup, TopOpps. We talked to him about his path to becoming a key player in St. Louis’ startup ecosystem.

Chisom Uche Marketing Specialist TopOpps
Chisom Uche is a Marketing Specialist for STL-based TopOpps

How did you get involved in the startup community?

My interest in startups and entrepreneurship didn’t peak until the summer of my sophomore year at Wash U when I got the opportunity to intern for Bonfyre here in St. Louis on The Hill. That internship was my first experience of startups and how my work would have a direct impact on the decisions the company made and how it operated. I was 19 when I started that internship, so having that level of responsibility was both daunting and exciting. I still think I owe the folks over at Bonfyre a lot for exposing me to my current passion.

What’s kept you in St. Louis?

I love St. Louis. I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone who knows me. After getting into Venture for America and finding out that St. Louis was an option, it became my focus destination. This city has so much to offer no matter who you are or what you are interested in and there is so much to do and see if you are willing to engage with the city and go explore it. Between the growing startup scene, all the wonderfully unique neighborhoods and the awesome people, I had no question that St. Louis was the city for me.

What does being an “entrepreneur” mean to you?

Being an entrepreneur, to me, means being someone who finds excitement and derives energy from critically thinking about problems and inefficiencies they see around them and exploring long-term solutions to improve the quality of life for those that their solutions affect. That means being okay with working in uncertain, even chaotic environments, and always asking questions when you see things that just don’t seem right. An entrepreneur should be empathetic, self-aware and conscientious. These things may seem romantic but they are critical to understanding your customers, colleagues and community, three major factors of a successful company.

When are you most productive?
My most productive time is when my phone isn’t going off and I have an approaching deadline. I’ve always enjoyed the adrenaline rush of “beating the clock.” That time usually comes at night. I’m way more of a night owl than an early bird.

What are you most passionate about?

Education would be my most ardent focus. I think a lot about the fortunate circumstances that helped me get to where I am and all the different scenarios in which things could have played out to land me in a very different set of circumstances. A lot of where I am today comes from the premium that my parents put on my education. I think education comes in many forms and intelligence isn’t best measured through standardized tests. My most educational moments came from experiences and discussions; very little came from textbooks and lectures. I think the best way to help educate people is to expose them to a plethora of experiences and allow them to naturally expand their curiosity and understanding of the world. That’s how people find and begin to study their passions. It took me until college to realize this. I wish I had found this realization much earlier.

This article was published in EQ print issue 1, Fall 2015. Read more about Chisom’s story here

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Kelly is Cofounder/Managing Partner of EQ and Cofounder of ALIVE Media Group. After earning an M.A. in literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Kelly cofounded ALIVE in 2002. He believes becoming an entrepreneur can change not only the life of that entrepreneur, but also his/her community and the world, and that being able to tell stories of transformation like that is the best job one could have.