VT Creative Computing alumna, Kunmi Otitoju, named one of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs

Publish Date: 03/24/2014

Kunmi Otitoju, (MS in CS from VT in 2007), was recently named one of this year's Forbes '30 Most Promising African Entrepreneurs' List. She built on her foundation in computer science (CS, Howard University, summa cum laude) and design to eventually found Minku Design in Barcelona. This has led her back to her roots in Africa. Now multinational, Minku designs in Spain and manufactures in Nigeria. It specializes in custom designed leather bags for men and women. In her own words, “two years on, Minku continues to define a fresh sub-Saharan aesthetic through its subtle use of cultural elements and artisan approach to contemporary bag-making.” Yes, that is some distance from CS, but the combination of understanding of craft (of programming), the role and practices of design, computational thinking, and entrepreneurship come together in this exciting business.

The website for Minku is http://www.minku.com. The key philosophy of the company is

  • There lies a unique beauty in things painstakingly handmade.
  • Repurpose, reuse, and reduce waste (80% of our bag interiors are lined with repurposed items of Yoruba ceremonial dress - aso-oke and damask fabrics).

She was attracted to Virginia Tech for a Masters in computer science in large part because of our support for “creative computing”. Expanded by the recent founding of the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology, creative computing is both an undergraduate track and a special foci in the Human-Computer Interaction area of our graduate programs. Her master’s thesis, “Man in the Mirror: A Mythology-Driven Exploration of Multiple User-Interpretations in a Multimedia Space” led to two research publications:

Otitoju, K., Harrison, S. (2008) “Interaction as Component of Meaning-Making” Proceedings of ACM DIS 2008, Cape Town, South Africa http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1394445.1394466

Otitoju, K. and Harrison, S. (2008) “Understanding User-Expectations using Ambiguity” UPA Europe 2008, Torino, Italy

Besides the article in Forbes, you can read about her incredible journey (including an internship at Goldman Sachs) at http://foundersgrid.com/fashion-startup-nigeria .