Joyce Aghahowa Executive MBA 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School
Programme:
Executive MBA
Nationality:
British
University and subject studied for undergraduate / master’s degree:

Master’s in International Relations, University of Benin

Job at start of the programme:

CEO & founder of Grant A Smile

My transformation into a humanitarian and entrepreneur

When I was a little girl, my dream was to become a teacher and that dream was achieved and was truly rewarding for me. However, a few years ago, I had a mindset reset and my view of the world evolved. What I want now is to leave my footprint in the sand and impact lives on a global level.

Prior to joining Imperial College Business School, I worked as an expat senior teacher and ran the company I founded alongside my job. However, since joining Imperial, I have been fully focused on growing the organisation and am now a full-time social entrepreneur.

I am the CEO and Founder of Grant A Smile Community Interest Company. We are a UK registered social enterprise offering practical home support to parents/families battling chronic or terminal health conditions. We have recently extended our humanitarian aid to countries like Myanmar and Nigeria and are fully operational in those countries. We were the proud winners of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June 2019. In August 2018, I was honoured with the British Citizen Award for our outstanding services to humanity. In October 2019, I received a special recognition award from the organisers of the prestigious Proud of Africa UK Award and many more. In May 2021 I was honoured to receive the British Empire Medal. We are changing lives and very grateful to be recognised for the amazing work we do both at home and abroad.

Choosing the Executive MBA at Imperial

I am a social entrepreneur who is on a mission to implement solutions that promote social, cultural and environmental well-being. In today’s ever evolving world of business, my skills and background as an educational leadership professional were not enough to help grow the organisation faster and smarter, so investing in an Executive MBA programme was the best way to learn, grow and connect with the right people and organisations.

I am very strategic when it comes to investing in my growth and how I spend my hard-earned money. I researched the best business schools in the UK and did an in-depth comparison with the rest of the world, and it was a no brainer to go with Imperial College Business School. For me, it was the Imperial brand, the breadth of the network, quality of the teaching, flexible blended learning approach and structured and rich curriculum that Imperial offers. Imperial College Business School’s Executive MBA often attracts candidates from diverse nationalities and I wanted to be part of that innovative and collaborative community where I can sharpen my analytical skills and be a more confident entrepreneur.

Receiving a scholarship that empowers women

My MBA is partly scholarship-funded and partly self-funded. I am one of the two recipients of the Inspiring Women – Executive MBA scholarship sponsored by the 30% Club. Outside of my role as a CEO and founder, I spend most of my time supporting and training women who want to start their own social enterprise. I strongly believe all businesses need to be social enterprises and positively impact people and the planet. Getting the 30% Club’s scholarship has provided me with the opportunity to support more women and help them achieve their goals of becoming a social entrepreneur. The value I get from Imperial College Business School trickles down to the women who come to me for support. It is a ripple effect and it’s all about educating, inspiring and empowering women to take the leap in their personal development and dream.

Mastering marketing

My favourite module so far is Marketing Management. This is a crucial part of my business and I have already started applying the marketing concepts and skills that I have learned so far in my business. In the past, we relied heavily on hiring experts to manage the marketing side of our organisation and often had no input. Now that I have the opportunity to study the concept of marketing in-depth, I find it fascinating and intriguing, and it feels amazing to be able to initiate the conversations and drive some of the changes we are currently working on. I have a sudden confidence boost in my leadership and management style and that is priceless. Above all, I feel better positioned to lead my team to success.

Overcoming seemingly impossible challenges

Taking on modules like Accounting and Corporate Reporting Analysis and Managerial Economics was not a walk in the park. At the start of each module, it sounded like Greek and Latin, and I just couldn’t grasp the concepts, nor did I see the value of studying these two subjects. To make matters worse, I didn’t come from a financial background and so I struggled for a while. I found myself dedicating so much time to studying just these two subjects and that was frustrating. However, the blended learning style here at Imperial means that I have the support of my syndicate group and now I don’t find these subjects as daunting anymore. We meet weekly, buddy up and study together, break down complex tasks for better understanding, share knowledge, collaborate and shine together. A few weeks into the programme and with better time management and organisation, the workload that I found overwhelming at the start become lighter, the heavy weight that rested on my shoulders was lifted, and now, I can confidently say, bring on Accounting and Corporate Reporting Analysis and Managerial Economics!

Studying as a full-time mum

I am a wife and a mum of three young children, managing a business and studying an Executive MBA programme. Managing family, work and study has been the most challenging part of this journey. I had to work on my organisational skills to help me find a way to stay afloat. From completing all my prep materials on The Hub, assignments, attending events and meeting regularly with my syndicate group, my tasks are never ending, but it is all worthwhile because nothing flourishes if it’s not nourished. I am a better version of myself and that is all that matters now.

Applying my skills

I am a more confident leader. I have mastered the art of marketing and have been applying and training the staff with the skills, strategies and knowledge gained from Imperial College Business School. We are working tirelessly to make sure we revamp and reset the things that weren’t working. Improved marketing strategies means we are targeting the right audience and thereby making profit and adding value. From the Organisational Behaviour module so far, I have learned skills of negotiation, people-picking and conflict management. This has led to the organisation making some vital staff restructuring, offering development training opportunities to relevant staff.

Connecting with classmates

A group of supportive, talented and genuine individuals from different background and that is what makes this cohort very special. We share knowledge, collaborate and have fun together. Without the rich diversity we have this year, the journey will not be complete. I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to get to know some of my classmates on a deeper level and make lifelong friendship along the way.

My business is all set to take off

The plan is to make Grant A Smile a household name. We won’t settle for less and will continue to work with the rest of the team on our mission to change the world. We have barely scratched the surface with what we have achieved so far. With the connections, wealth of knowledge and business support that Imperial has to offer, I am confident that the sky will not be the limit because there are footprints in the moon. We can only go up!

My advice for future applicants

When you get a chance to apply to Imperial College Business School, don’t overthink it, just do it! The Imperial brand speaks for itself. From the stunning campus, high-tech facilities, rich curriculum, outstanding teaching and learning, to the student support, events and networking opportunities, the list is endless and worthwhile. The Business School promises a well-rounded, world class education and without a doubt, that is exactly what you get and more.

Programme:
Executive MBA
Nationality:
British
University and subject studied for undergraduate / master’s degree:

Master’s in International Relations, University of Benin

Job at start of the programme:

CEO & founder of Grant A Smile

Find out if the Executive MBA is right for you