Not Your Typical Entrepreneur

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Sophomore, and Founder of PracticeGigs, Toni Oloko Shares His Story

Sophomore Toni Oloko founded and sold a company all before starting his undergraduate education at Penn. Some may believe that such success at an early age gives you bragging rights, but it’s quite the opposite for Toni. What sets Toni apart is his ability to laugh at himself, his humbleness, and his ability to quickly shift the focus from his own achievements to those of others who he’s proud to know.

Regardless of his humility though, it’s clear that Toni has already seen success as an entrepreneur and has a bright future ahead of him. He’s certainly one that Sigma brothers should watch in the years to come.

It all started in high school when Toni participated in Youth CITIES, a program that provides education, mentorship, and networking opportunities in entrepreneurship. Inspired to test his own skills, at just 15 years old Toni founded PracticeGigs, a company that provides athletes access to on-demand practice sessions with better players. As a tennis player, Toni knew private coaches can be expensive and wanted to give players an affordable option for improving their skills.

To his surprise, Toni raised capital, through the Youth CITIES network from some of the top venture capitalists in Boston. With funding in place, he and his team were able to build a mobile app that connected athletes with practice partners near them. Later, gyms and sports clubs used the app across the Northeast.

“I took two gap years to build the company,” Toni explains. “We had seven employees and raised a half million dollars in funding, finally selling the business in January 2016. It was a really amazing time. I gained valuable experience, and built a great network of contacts.”

But Toni admits that running a start-up comes with many challenges—some of which he wasn’t prepared for at such a young age.

“I had some really cool opportunities, like giving a TED Talk, and I met some amazing people, but I also learned how hard it is to build and run a business,” he admits.

“There were a lot of things I didn’t know, like how to pay taxes or manage a team,” he continues, laughing. “I had friends doing even cooler things than I was, and some days I didn’t really know if I was succeeding since the progress wasn’t linear. I think all it’s given me is a receding hair line. It was a lot of highs and lows. There were many individual moments that were really cool, but overall it was a humbling experience and made me realize life is hard.”

After selling the business, Toni came to Penn, where he’s now studying business to supplement his hands-on experience. He quickly found his way to Zeta Psi, drawn in by the great sense of diversity and their drive for success.

“My decision to join the fraternity was 100% based on meeting really great people in Zeta Psi—people I respected, who had good values, and who I wanted to hang with for the next three or four years,” he explains.

That sense of community is by far the biggest benefit of being a member of the chapter, Toni says. He knows his brothers have his back and that there will always be someone with whom he can laugh, share a meal, or have those cherished late-night conversations.

He’s also in good company at the fraternity when it comes to ambition and achievement.

“My brothers are just as accomplished and driven as me, but in other ways,” he says, proudly. “Some are entrepreneurs, others are building their own art exhibits, some are interested in computer science and mechanical engineering, and others will probably have awesome jobs in finance in New York. [At Zeta Psi], we really respect what other people are passionate about, value their talents, and do what we can support them.”

Although Toni is attending Penn full-time, he is still racking up real-world experiences to further develop his skills. Most notably, he’s been working full-time, as the Head of Special Projects, for another startup in the Philadelphia area, helping it expand from serving 10 markets to nearly 30 today.

Given his ambition, it’s safe to say that Toni could take many paths in life. Right now, though, he says he’ll most likely aim to advise and support start-ups, or become an angel investor or venture capitalist to give promising new businesses a chance to succeed. And though he’s not quite sure how, yet, he’s committed to truly making a difference in the world and giving back.

“Whatever I do, I want to invest time in solving real problems,” he says.