EFC Graduate Builds Success in Pittsburgh

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It is always inspiring to see an individual who embodies the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that exemplifies the American Dream. A graduate of the Institute’s Entrepreneurial Fellows Center (EFC), Emeka Onwugbenu is one of these extraordinary individuals.

Onwugbenu, an emigrant from Nigeria and owner of E Properties and Development in Lawrenceville, was recently highlighted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for his entrepreneurial drive.

Growing up in Nigeria as one of eight siblings, Onwugbenu, who is also a member of the Igbo ethnic group long known for its entrepreneurship, learned about entrepreneurship as a young boy by selling eggs from a pair of chickens his grandmother gave him. When he first came to the United States to study engineering at Penn State University, he continued his entrepreneurial endeavors via buying and selling on Craigslist and eBay.

His entrepreneurial drive did not stop there though.  Onwugbenu graduated in 2006 and began working as a facilities and products engineer for MEDRAD Inc., a medical device manufacturer.  During that time he also pursued his MBA through night classes at Carnegie Mellon University.  Despite a very busy schedule Onwugbenu, who always had an interest in the real estate industry, used the recession as an opportunity to buy an undervalued house and, with the help of a crew, renovate it.  This was the beginning of E Properties and Development, a development company that builds and renovates structures in Lawrenceville, Garfield and Friendship, including the distinctive Croghan’s Edge housing plan on Penn Avenue in lower Lawrenceville.

As one of the city’s most innovative developers, 28-year-old Onwugbenu now operates his successful Lawrenceville business with six full-time staff members and 15 to 25 independent contractors. He is currently preparing to convert the former McCleary School in Lawrenceville into luxury condominiums and the former Holy Family church and school in Lawrenceville into apartments.

The Institute first contacted Onwugbenu to inform him of our EFC classes, and once he joined, he realized it was time well-invested. He had two major goals he wanted to achieve from the program. First, he wanted to develop a deeper understanding of managing financial growth. Second, he wanted a better method when choosing to purchase properties. The program gave him applicable tools to accomplish both of these goals, and his classmates, while in different fields, provided valuable insight as well.

EFC classes range from formatting a business plan to implementation, identifying strengths and weaknesses, leadership, communication, efficiency & effectiveness, marketing, sales, and other topics of importance. Attendees associate the growth of their business – expanding to new markets, increasing bottom-line growth, and growing sales – with their involvement in our program.

For more information on The Institute’s EFC Program, contact Dione Cahillane at

dcahillane@innovation.pitt.edu.

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