When senior computer engineering major Chima Onukwuru developed the idea for his promotional website Africans Can Gossip in August 2013, he thought he would have to beg schools to participate.
But now after receiving nearly 2,000 daily hits and attracting the attention of The Society of Emerging African Leaders, schools are begging him.
“We started just at Temple,” Onukwuru said. “Now we have schools like Penn State, UPenn and Rutgers. We even got University of California, Berkeley on there.”
Africans Can Gossip posts information and fliers about upcoming events for different African student organizations across the country.
Onukwuru said the idea behind the site came from his experience with the Organization of African Students at Temple. He said he thought there should be a way for students at all university African organizations to unite nationally.
“We thought, ‘What if we had a place where different people from different schools in different African organizations had one place where they could see all events that cater to them?’” Onukwuru said. “Instead of just going to school, graduating and getting a job, we wanted to do something big that would set us apart from other people.”
Onukwuru said the site name might be confusing because it’s about promotional events, not actual gossip.
“We just wanted a name that would draw people in,” Onukwuru said. “People come to the site expecting gossip, see what it really is and stay for the events.”
Onukwuru said he was eager to get the site up immediately. Even with a background in coding, Onukwuru said he knew it would take a lot of time to develop a fully functional site from scratch. He said he instead decided to use sites like GoDaddy.com and bought every domain imaginable.
“The first week, I spent about $200 or $300 on domains and the web developer where you actually build the site,” Onukwuru said.
“When the site first came out, it was absolute garbage,” he added. “It was so ugly. From there, we started to tweak and kept moving along.”
Onukwuru said the site is updated weekly, but events typically only take place during fall and spring semesters. In order to keep people visiting year-round, Onukwuru and fellow site-managers decided to add more content with a fashion blogger and comedy specials.
“You’re not going to stop by every day and see something new,” Onukwuru said. “But I want people to come by once and see an event. Then maybe they check back next week for a new music video or fashion tips.”
Junior information science and technology major Adefolarin Adeleke runs the music portion of the site, posting information about new African artists and their work.
Adeleke said it’s easy to recruit schools to provide content because there is virtually no downside.
“The key word is free,” Adeleke said. “We just sent out emails to schools and told them we promote and advertise their events for free. Who wouldn’t want to go for that?”
Africans Can Gossip received attention when Onukwuru was honored at the Second Annual SEAL Award Gala on April 4. The event awarded leaders who positively represent the African community.
Though Onukwuru was the only Africans Can Gossip contributor named, he said the honor belonged to all eight of the site contributors.
“It wasn’t a solo effort,” Onukwuru said. “Even though I came up with the idea, I needed people to expand on it. My friends like [Adeleke] came into play and helped me take it to the next level. I told them we all had to go up as a group to get the award.”
One of the speakers at the event was Farai Gundan, a co-founder and CEO of mobile and online advertising network FaraiMedia LLC, and a contributor to Forbes magazine.
“We were recognized in front of somebody who spends time with the richest women in the world,” Onukwuru said. “She started off as a blogger. It was so inspiring to meet people like her doing big things in the African community. It motivates you.”
Onukwuru and Adeleke said they are by no means finished with the site. They said they plan to expand after graduation and bring more people on board.
“You know, you always have your doubters,” Onukwuru said. “We had people saying, ‘Oh, it’s not going to work. Oh, you can’t do this.’ But now we have people asking to contribute all the time. It’s crazy what happens when you work hard and stay humble. We just want to get bigger.”
“We’re not done,” Adeleke said. “Stay tuned.”
Jessica Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org