11 Questions with MS in Entrepreneurship Student Abari Charles

We asked current Foster students to tell us why they chose Foster, what they like to do for fun, and to share advice with potential applicants. Meet Master of Science in Entrepreneurship student Abari.

Abari Charles

1) Where are you from?

I’m South Sudanese but I was born in Kenya and grew up in Fargo, ND. I moved to Washington state for my undergrad and stayed for my masters.

2) What did you do before entering this program?

Before entering this program, I was concluding my gap year after graduating from UW with a bachelor’s degree in sociology honors and a double minor in Entrepreneurship and African Studies. I spent a lot of time out of undergrad traveling, working and helping the African Youth Coalition grow with events and partnerships.

3) Did you have any entrepreneurship experience before entering this program?

Previous to this program, I had entrepreneurial experience in undergrad. My minor was entrepreneurship and I was part of ImpacT and concluded with Darblys Design. ImpacT created sustainable custom t-shirts that made an impact from beginning to end. While Darblys Design started off as quality leather dog leashes to customized leather keychains. Both startups gave me a strong foundation to what entrepreneurship was, how to utilize scrappy strategies and redirect when needed. Through both startups, I worked with a diverse team and I was able to help create social impacts. It showed me how hard entrepreneurship can be at times but how rewarding it is at the same time.

4) Tell us why you are excited to be a part of the fourth cohort for the MS ENTRE degree program?

I’m super excited to be a part of the fourth cohort of the MS ENTRE degree. This cohort is truly diverse and I love the fact that I get to be the founder of my own company without feeling a need to partner. In my previous startups, it was required to make a team with your classmates. But this program allows me to connect with startup founders who are going through the same thing I am from the start. It’s a different type of atmosphere that is truly rewarding and I can’t wait for the success all the founders in my cohort can create.

5) What advantages do you see to opening a business now?

Although COVID has disrupted a lot of business, it also motivates me to grow my business because it amplified the use of online networking. Last year, I would have never imagined connecting and networking with so many people outside of the US. But as I network and connect, I see the repeating theme of sustainability, and small businesses rise up. It’s the best time to showcase the need for sustainable products and services that can impact those who are less privileged.

6) What connections are you hoping to make while in the program?

I’m hoping to connect with more social entrepreneurs who are not only focused on giving back but also creating eco-friendly solutions that generate high profit. I look forward to connecting with more people who are more than business owners, but philanthropists, advocates and so much more. Seattle is so diverse not only in ethnicity but in a diverse range of professionals. It’s quoted to be a tech hub but it’s also a hub of creatives, nonprofit workers, advocates and so much more. I look forward to connecting with more individuals from various backgrounds.

7) Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

In five years, I hope to build a successful business through Niolette that hires refugees and in return showcases to policymakers that accepting refugees is beneficial to a company. Not only does providing jobs to refugees empower them – whether they are in the camps or not – but it can also be financially beneficial to a host country.

8) What skills and/or knowledge are you looking to develop?

I’m looking forward to developing my programming and software skills. I want to be able to create an app and manage my own website backend without great assistance. I’m also eager to learn how to manage a team over ten while keeping a strong business culture that’s motivating employees both in and out of work.

9) What do you like to do for fun?

I love traveling whether it’s in-state or out, but I think being on stage has to be number one. Whether it’s spoken word, dancing or showcase my research, I love being in front of a crowd. It allows me to create in so many different ways. From creating a script to go off of, creating a presentation or selecting my outfit, being on stage encapsulates all of that. Being an introvert, being on stage allows me to be heard and ever since high school I’ve been in love with it. But traveling comes in at a close second.

Abari Charles at Ignite Seattle

10) What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?

There have been so many favorite parts thus far. However, my favorite would be the weekly guest speakers and coffee chats. Hearing from diverse entrepreneurs and being able to present my startup in front of them has been amazing. I loved learning about everyone’s journey and gaining insights from them.

11) What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about applying to the MS ENTRE degree program?

Everyone has an idea they’ve repeatedly envisioned in their heads, but do not know where to start. And in most cases just need a push and the MS ENTRE degree program is just the gentle push you need. The opportunity and validation course will help you clear your thoughts and vision, your diverse cohort will cheer you on and everyone in the MS program will do their best to help you succeed. It’s bigger than a cheerleading team for your business. It’s a community of people who will check up on you, advise you and email away to help you along your journey. Being an entrepreneur is not always easy but having a supportive community is what you need and the MS ENTRE program provides just that. Whether you’re new to the Seattle area or have lived here all your life, this type of community is unmatched and worth the investment.