Efua Akumanyi (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence 1998) is the Co-Founder and CTO of Furnishful, a shopping discovery site for furniture and homewares launched in 2016.
Efua graduated from Sussex with a BSc in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence in 2001 and went on to work as a software developer for 15 years. She is passionate about encouraging other women into tech, whether it’s finding jobs in the industry or starting their own business. She is a member of several women in tech groups and speaks on subjects ranging from AI to entrepreneurship.
What are the biggest challenges of running your own business?
You have to wear many different hats. I really enjoy programming and I would do it all day if I could, but I also have to strategise, understand the numbers and network, plus lots of other things. Prioritising becomes very important.
…and what brings the most satisfaction?
It’s very exciting being your own boss. You have a lot of freedom. I love being able to come up with the tech solutions and architecture to innovate our business alongside implementing new ideas quickly without a long sign-off process.
Do you have any heroes or heroines?
Yes, I have people who I admire for their achievements and courage. I think my parents were extremely brave. We came to the UK from Ghana as political refugees in 1982, following a military coup. My parents had to leave their home behind to start again in a new country with three young children. So, my heroes have always been close to home.
What part of the Sussex experience has helped you most in later life?
Aside from the technical skills I developed on my course, it was the social skills. Meeting and making friends with people from so many different places was really helpful.
What are you passionate about?
Encouraging other women into tech, either to get jobs in tech or start their own business. Throughout university and for a lot of my career I was quite quiet and rarely volunteered my opinions and ideas. As a business owner and someone who is becoming increasingly embedded in the start-up scene, I realise how important it is to be more vocal and that I can now help and inspire others to fulfil their ambitions too.
It’s very exciting being your own boss. You have a lot of freedom. I love being able to come up with the tech solutions and architecture to innovate our business as well as implementing new ideas quickly without a long sign-off process.” Efua Akumanyi
How valuable has mentoring been to you in your career so far?
Very helpful, especially in regard to running my business. I think it can be invaluable to have someone who can help you see where you may be blocked and challenge some of your assumptions. This can give you more clarity and help you see things in a different light.
What advice would you give to any current student interested in starting their own business?
Try and gain as much knowledge as you can about different business models and the market you are interested in. Listen to podcasts, read articles, go to events. Then just do it! Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Finally, network like mad. I have found people to be generally very friendly and willing to help you where they can.
What was a typical student night out for you?
It was usually a night out in Brighton. The Escape Club or the Honey Club for the Drum ‘n’ Bass or RnB music, depending on what mood we were in (this makes it sound like I went out a lot, but I really didn’t – my course was pretty full on!)
Did you have a favourite spot on campus?
The campus pub The Grapevine! Mostly for the Sunday lunch and movie afternoon. The staff used to give me extra roast.
What’s the skill you’d most like to have?
Fluency in several spoken languages would be great.
Life’s biggest lesson so far?
Stepping out of your comfort zone is really important. It can be the best way to grow.
Describe your perfect day…
Waking up after eight hours sleep with the perfect solution to a tricky programming problem. Then meditating anywhere in nature (garden, waterfront, beach). Followed by reading several chapters of a good book. Then finally watching a great movie and getting an early night.
Network with Efua and alumni like her who've volunteered to help current students and fellow alumni by joining Sussex Connect, our exclusive eMentoring platform.