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Promoting recycling and the environment

"WMG, University of Warwick is a huge part of my success to date"

Not much fazes Wunmi Ogunde. The 33-year-old was the only female engineer in her workplace, organised Nigeria’s first pollution control conference and is enjoying a trailblazing career in sustainability. As well as advising businesses on pollution control, this young entrepreneur runs a social enterprise Ecoprune. The concept is simple but innovative — people trade their trash for rewards such as subsidised health care services, cash and more.

All this has been achieved thanks to Wunmi’s MSc in Manufacturing Systems Engineering. ‘My thesis in plastics recycling gave me the backbone and knowledge to start my businesses, ‘she adds. ‘Now I want to empower others to be accountable for the greater good.’

Describe your work

Promoting recycling and the environment. Ecoprune encourages individuals and businesses to exchange recyclable waste for benefits. Healthcare organisations are partnering with us so low-income workers can pay for medical treatment using points. I also run EMR Consult which provides advice to businesses on sustainable development.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

Starting my business. I’d saved money so the issue was when and how. Launching the first pollution control conference in Lagos, Nigeria was intimidating, but over 200 people attended which was fantastic! WMG gave me the confidence to be authoritative, not to just take a back seat. In my first job as an engineer, I was the only female. But the guys knew they couldn’t mess with me – my nickname was ‘iron lady’.

What part did your course play in your achievements?

My thesis has shaped every step. It gave me the knowledge I needed when I started working. And it still guides me today. There’s so much to be done in the environmental arena worldwide. That inspires me every day. Setting up a manufacturing company is my goal- I’ll get there in the next few years.

What skills gained at WMG are useful in business?

Time management. Having classes at WMG from 9.00am to 5.00pm introduced me to reality. So running a business 24/7 wasn’t a big deal afterwards. People say you can’t do everything, but you can. You just need structure, to decide where to allocate your time. Learning how to research has helped immensely too. Data analysis is invaluable in my business.

What’s your advice to others?

Not to give up, especially women. Trust me, you know more than you think. Others will be willing to listen if you share your vision.