Anthony Nganga came to the United States in 2004 to join his wife, who had moved to America to earn a master’s degree and was living in Lowell. In Kenya, Nganga had worked as an architect. Now, because foreign professional licenses typically are not recognized in the United States, he would have to start over, doing the work of an intern while preparing for U.S. licensure. Nganga has no complaints. He is grateful that a North Andover firm hired him within two months of his arrival.
“I moved here mostly looking for greener pastures,” he says. In 2015, Nganga launched his own business. “I didn’t have any real business plan,” he says. “But I knew what kind of a customer I was going to look for.” Today his firm, Studio 26 Associates, has one full-time and two part-time employees and occasional interns. It specializes in commercial design, and counts among its projects two local microbreweries and several churches.
For his success, Nganga credits Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), a local nonprofit that helps prospective founders. Initially he sought only co-working space, but after signing up for a pitch contest and accelerator program found himself with two mentors and a lot of networking events to attend.
“It was very helpful for me,” he says. “Everybody comes out of there feeling very different. You have a plan. You have a strategy. For me that was probably the best thing that happened.”
Nganga is now trying to return the favor. He still keeps an office in the co-working space. He now serves as a mentor to others and donates time and money when he can. He feels connected to Lowell in ways that he never expected, extending his volunteer work to other civic areas: the soup kitchen, Lowell public access television (LTC), a community composting project.
“Once I had my office in the co-working space, I could take a walk, talk to people. I definitely felt a positive and welcoming energy,” Nganga says. “Within three months I was like, This is where I want to be; it’s nice, it’s fun.”