Correction, August 29: This post incorrectly stated that there were only three Cornell students named to the program. In fact, Chiamaka Ijebuonwu ’20, Jehron Petty ’20 and Akanksha Jain ’20 are only part of the Cornell cohort.
Every year, the Forbes 30 Under 30 list identifies the most promising young visionaries, and Cornellians almost always make an appearance. In years past, dozens of ambitious Cornell alumni have made the list, spanning industries from healthcare entrepreneurship to skincare innovation to sustainable dining.
This year, Chiamaka Ijebuonwu ’20, Jehron Petty ’20 and Akanksha Jain ’20 were three of the Cornell students named Forbes Under 30 “scholars,” allowing them free admission to the Forbes Under 30 Summit, a three day event for up-and-coming “leaders, founders, investors and creators,” according to the event website.
Savanna Lim ’21 and Justin Kuang ’20 was also named to the program, as well as alumna Michelle Ip ’19.
The summit, to be held in Detroit on October 27-30, will include a “private music festival,” lectures from celebrities, athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs such as famed tennis player Serena Williams and CEO of technology company Squarespace, as well as the opportunity to network with potential investors, industry-specific “field trips” and even a “legendary” pub crawl.
The students will join hundreds of other scholars as talented, promising college students from “underrepresented backgrounds” chosen to attend the summit by Forbes.
A longtime serial entrepreneur, Petty first began as an entrepreneur as a teenager fixing devices for friends. Since then, he has launched a clothing line, developed a video series to give financial advice to young people of color, and a platform that challenges participants to “live a life above average.”
Ijebuonwu also had an early start to her career, as she first discovered began honing her entrepreneurial spirit in middle school.
“I was that kid that sold candy and snacks in between periods during 6th and 7th grade,” she told The Sun.
Ijebuonwu began working with the Ithaca Free Clinic the summer after her freshman year, and worked with professors in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis to redesign parts of the clinic.
In the fall of 2018, she launched the Healthy Snacking Initiative, in conjunction with the Ithaca Free Clinic, a service and research project to encourage healthy snacks and expand nutritional education, which is still ongoing.
Ijebuonwu had advice for student entrepreneurs looking to start their own business.
“First, no dream is too big. If you really want to do something that will positively impact your community, work hard at it until it’s done,” Ijebuonwu continued. “Second, build your network. Networking is key to having your projects reach their fullest potential because of the advice and resources people within the network may have.”
Jain, also a senior whose LinkedIn profile displayed a passion for “improving healthcare for the general public,” announced on the platform that she would be attending the summit. Jain did not respond to requests by The Sun for an interview by print time.
Petty’s advice concerned itself the most important part of starting a business: simply founding it.
“It’s all about starting,” Petty said. “It sounds counter-intuitive, but people get bogged down by ‘perfection,’ they think they need to start with an end product.” He cited Facebook’s origins as a social network for Harvard as an example of the evolution of a business.
“I’m a big fan of starting as fast as possible, and failing as fast as possible,” Petty said.