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Motivational Monday: App Developer

We caught up with former bursary student and Oxford graduate Nadia Odunayo, who has founded a book recommendations app and website.

Nadia (class of 2010) credits her time at school for sparking her love of literature and giving her the confidence to set up her own business. “I’ve always loved books and reading but the literary community at school really helped me grow into a critical, diverse reader. My favourite activity was book club run by Mr Harkins and Madame Raitz. We read such a range of books and always had the most stimulating discussions. I remember being nervous at first to share my opinions, but I developed my confidence as the years went by.”

While at Oxford University studying for a degree in PPE, Nadia initially secured her first job in investment banking. “Coming from a poor background, one of my goals was to end up in a high-paying job so that I could lead a financially secure life. When I was in Year 9, I remember going to UBS with a school friend and her dad during ‘Take Your Daughter To Work Day’ and thinking it was the most exciting environment ever. I ended up turning down the graduate job because I knew I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial.”

Nadia founded and now runs a book tracking and recommendations app and website called The StoryGraph which has grown phenomenally during the pandemic. “Reading was an activity that people did a lot of during lockdown. As a result, we grew from 1000 users to 20,000 in the span of three days after a couple of Tweets about our work. Since then, we’ve been steadily growing, having recently passed 175,000 users from all over the world. We’ve recently launched a paid plan, which offers a more personalised experience. 1,400 people pre-ordered and the first free trials are starting to expire. We’ll have to see how many users convert and I’m hoping we can make a sustainable, profitable business out of this.”

When she looks back on her time at school, Nadia says: “South Hampstead was where I started to develop the confidence, drive and ambition that fuels me today and has helped me start my business. Being surrounded by so many smart women and teachers who challenge you to do the best was so inspiring.”

South Hampstead was where I started to develop the confidence, drive and ambition that fuels me.

Her advice to students today is to:  “Always believe in yourself and keep going. Worrying is never optimal. The hardest problems can always be broken down into more manageable ones and perseverance really does pay off. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those around you.”

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