Solving his problems the entrepreneur way

Frederick Adenuga ’15

Freddy’s been a tech enthusiast for as long as he can remember. He grew up wanting to build things like the founders he admired, so he joined the entrepreneurship program at Florida State University. Soon, he was knee-deep in his first project: a website intended to compete with the campus newspaper. After a year of long nights and WordPress tutorials, it still hadn’t taken off. “That was my signature failure,” Freddy said—but now he considers that rough patch a valuable lesson in perseverance. He switched gears, reached out to a few humor writers he admired, and tried something else: a satirical news website covering the FSU campus. Unlike his first attempt, The Eggplant was an undeniable hit, receiving as many as a million visits a day.

Though running The Eggplant was challenging and time consuming, Freddy was hooked; he knew building things was the right path. When he saw a clip of VFA founder Andrew Yang promoting his book on MSNBC, he applied right away—and by the time he started his fellowship, he had a radically different project in mind: a patch to contain sweat. Growing up, Freddy tried every deodorant on the market, but he still frequently sweat through his clothes. He was determined to solve that problem once and for all.

 

Learning from the product experts

Freddy knew that he wanted to learn how to bring a product to market, so he applied for a job with Trident Design, a Columbus-based company that helps startups and inventors develop, launch, and crowdfund their products. Working for Trident was a real apprenticeship—Freddy peppered them with questions about branding and online marketing, and did everything he could to help the company succeed. “It was a one-year bootcamp on how to launch a product,” Freddy said, and he credits Trident with giving him the skills he needed to launch Sweat Seal. His Trident colleagues embraced Sweat Seal, too—they knew he was there to learn in the hopes of launching his own company, and they cheered him along every step of the way.
Using VFA resources to launch Sweat Seal

Using VFA resources to launch Sweat Seal

A year into his fellowship, Freddy returned to Training Camp for Side-Project-A-Thon, 72 hours of concentrated side project hustle. There, Freddy shared prototypes of his Sweat Seal patches with a large group—other Fellows, alumni, and the VFA team—for the first time. The overwhelming feedback? Sweat Seal worked, and his testers wanted more. He decided he was ready to crowd fund, and spent the next six months preparing for the Innovation Fund, VFA’s annual crowdfunding competition.

The Innovation Fund was the most challenging thirty days of Freddy’s fellowship. During that month, he did nothing but promote his campaign. His efforts more than paid off: he raised $15,750 from close friends, VFA Fellows, old classmates, family, and even strangers who believed in Sweat Seal—190 backers in all—and won the competition. Those funds, coupled with an additional $12,000 in prizes from VFA, made it possible for Freddy to go full-time on Sweat Seal, begin research and development for a Sweat Seal t-shirt (a highly-requested product), and ensure that manufacturing would stay not only in the US, but in Freddy’s new beloved home state: Ohio.

Columbus is my forever home.

– Frederick Adenuga '15
A Miami boy at home in Ohio

A Miami boy at home in Ohio

Freddy grew up in Miami—another VFA city, but a place that has a few key differences from Columbus, like beaches and the absence of winter. Ohio wasn’t where Freddy saw himself ending up. “If you had asked me two years ago if I would consider moving to Columbus, I would have asked you where Columbus was,” he said. Now, he considers Columbus his “forever home.” “Midwestern kindness is a real thing,” he said. “They have won me over for life.”

Sweat Seal will remain headquartered in Columbus, and its products will be manufactured a car ride away in Cleveland. Freddy’s former employer, Trident Design, has become a Sweat Seal consultant. And the Columbus Fellows have become a real community.

In June, Freddy won a pitch competition hosted by Andrew and Daymond John, star of Shark Tank. “For me,” Freddy said, “everything about VFA is a win.”

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