Captivist founder Joyous Njoku combines business knowledge with eco-awareness for impact
Startup entrepreneur Joyous Njoku is combining activism and capitalism to create consumer awareness about the products we buy. She says, "Captivist is an app that will make caring easy. When you use it to scan or search a product you're interested in, you'll get an easy-to-read breakdown of its social, environmental, and health impact."
Njoku is a supply chain management major at the Texas Tech University Rawls College of Business. "I've always wanted to be a CEO since I was a kid," she says. Her experience as a student assistant during her freshman year nurtured her long-time passion for sustainability issues. She worked with the social justice advocates in the Student Housing Office. She says, "My advisor kept calling me an activist. In my head, that word called up images of angry yelling people. I'm not an activist at all, in that sense. I just chose to live a lifestyle that I don't feel guilty about because of the information I have and use."
The Texas Tech University junior says her eco-sustainability journey began in fifth grade in her hometown of Houston. "I had a science teacher who told us about the world-wide scarcity of clean water. She gave each of us a water-saving showerhead. I took mine home and installed it that same day. I was trying to save water for other people to use and to help the planet. Ever since then, I've tried to do the best research I could about my lifestyle and diet in order to be a responsibly conscientious consumer."
That process, she says, led her to become a vegan six years ago. She stresses, however, "With Captivist, I don't want to push any agenda or idea. I want to empower people with information that helps them when it comes to making decisions based on sustainability and wellness."
Njoku adds, "In the beginning, I didn't realize that I was doing a lot of negative things to the planet, my body, and other people. I'm much more aware now of my impact and how much value and power I have as a consumer. Through Captivist, I want to show that businesses can be a platform of good and of change and still make a profit."
Competitions encouraging innovation
Njoku first brought her app idea to the Texas Tech Innovation Hub through the Red Raider Startup program in October. "I found out about Red Raider Startup from an announcement on Tech Connect. I pitched Captivist there, and the participants chose to workshop it along with several other ideas. Right after my final pitch, a Hub mentor offered to connect me with other people who would be interested in my idea. Some participants also reached out saying they wanted to do anything they could to help Captivist."
Participating in the Innovation Hub's iLaunch Competition was Njoku's next, and perhaps biggest, step. "On the semi-finalist round pitch day, I had so much anxiety that I had to sit down and do deep breathing. It was my first time being alone as an adult in a huge competition. I didn't have my family to come home to. After I was chosen as a finalist, I was more confident and relaxed. Everybody in the program and at the Hub was extremely supportive. It felt like being part of a class united by a spirit of togetherness rather than being among rival competitors. I felt honored to be there with teams that are solving big problems in the world. It was a really good experience."
Since then, Njoku has gathered a team of marketing, coding, and finance students to help further develop and launch Captivist. Earlier this month, the startup was selected as one 16 finalists competing for acceptance into the Innovation Hub's 2020 Texas Tech Accelerator program.
"Competition is something that is a driving force for innovation," Njoku says. "I don't think I would be this far along with Captivist if I hadn't been involved with the Hub. The hands-on programs, competitions, deadlines, and accountability have been a real kick start for me. There's a bunch of people now as invested in Captivist as I am."
Hustle with impact
That helps fuel Njoku's hustle. "I like the quote, 'Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.' Hustle is about doing everything you can to make IT happen. You can't have any excuses or let any external things stop you because there are always options; there's always a way," she says. "My hustle is geared toward the positive impact that comes from empowering people to live the best lives they can live through the best knowledge they can have."