Black UI student and alums pave their own paths in business

From Humanize My Hoodie to Josina’s Handmade, UI alumni and students share their journeys of being Black in business and paving their paths to success.


Gabby Drees

Andre Wright, cofounder of Humanize My Hoodie, poses for a portrait in an alleyway near South Clinton Street in Iowa City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

Black students made up just 3.01 percent of those enrolled at the University of Iowa in fall 2021, meaning those pursuing business ventures often have to create their own paths to success.

Andre Wright

Andre Wright, who graduated from the UI in 2005 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis on graphic design, created an avenue for himself that led to the co-founding of his fashion activism brand, Humanize My Hoodie.

Wright said it was discomforting to be one of the only Black students in his classes, but he retained a lens of activism throughout his work, allowing him to maintain a sense of identity.

“I was able to create my own environment and knew that I was unique,” Wright said. “And then I was able to capitalize off those things by creating various strings of businesses.”

Wright said he had few Black “heroes” in graphic design at the UI, so he paved his own path by running multiple garment-centered businesses in college, though he had no formal fashion training.

The activist mindset and diligence that Wright maintained through his schoolwork and entrepreneurial ventures contributed to the success of Humanize My Hoodie, a brand that transformed from a mission to a movement.

Wright said the brand was originally a conversation to bring awareness to Black people being criminalized by wearing hoodies and evolved into action through cultural competency workshops, graphic design courses, fashion shows amplifying ancestors, and more.

“The fashion piece is just a vehicle to be able to hold the conversation and get it on as many bodies as possible,” Wright said.

Sandrah Nasimiyu

Global health major and fourth-year UI student Sandrah Nasimiyu co-founded her business, Josina’s Handmade, while in high school. Josina’s Handmade employs about 45 artists along the eastern coast of Africa, producing handcrafted home goods and jewelry.

Nasimiyu works outside of school, spending weekends finding live events to showcase the handmade goods while also managing international laws and paperwork for the products.

She said she wants Josina’s Handmade to continue growing but also stay home-based so that every piece continues to feel personal to the customer.

“I don’t want it to become something that’s so mainstream, that’s continuously copyrighted,” Nasimiyu said. “Because each of our pieces are handmade and they’re unique, there’s not one that will look the same as the other.”

Rita Guzmán

Rita Guzmán, who graduated from the UI in 2018, is an enrollment adviser at AllCampus — an organization tasked with lowering the cost of U.S. education through collaborations with their partner universities. She majored in marketing and, like Wright, was often one of few Black students in her classes.

Coming from a small town, Guzmán was more accustomed to a lack of diversity prior to attending the UI. However, there were times when Guzmán said she found herself confronted with differing and uncomfortable perspectives in classroom discussions.

Guzmán said speaking her mind was a “means of survival” at the UI. She advises young, Black entrepreneurs to use their voices, as well.

“If you’re trying to better things like representation, especially in business schools, it’s important to keep pushing and to speak your mind,” Guzmán said. “If you have ideas and thoughts and perspectives, share them. Don’t be silent.”