Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws student, Izilah (Izzy) Mohammed is this year’s CEO of the Velocity entrepreneurship development programme. Izzy is responsible for leading a committee of student volunteers who organise a year-long programme of competitions, inspirational seminars and workshops for the benefit of hundreds of University of Auckland students and staff. 

Tell us about your background and what led to your interest in innovation and entrepreneurship?

Growing up as a Muslim girl, I’ve always been aware that I’m viewed as “different”. Despite the fact that I am a Kiwi, it was made clear that I didn’t belong here. My hijab set preconceived notions in the minds of many about my skills, attributes, and potential for the future. Having come to terms with my differences has made me incredibly passionate about social and international issues, specifically, gender inclusivity and cultural diversity.

Through the Young Enterprise Scheme, I started Hijabity in Year 13. Hijabity, a social venture which aims to empower the “different” and to educate those who are in the unknown. By creating the Izzy doll, I share my story and hope to influence the next generation that we too are the same. “Hijab”-”ity”, tries to define my story of a young girl who chose to wear a hijab, and how that shaped her identity for the rest of her life.

The experience in Young Enterprise solidified my passion for the world of innovation and entrepreneurship and led to pursuing it on multiple fronts, one of those being academic. Being able to study it academically creates an avenue to see it holistically and join the dots of the entrepreneurial mindset. Being a part of the community of problem solvers and innovators provides an endless cycle of learning and opportunities, and that is what excites me most. Once you get your first taste of innovation and/or entrepreneurship, you will never want to stop.

How did you first get involved with Velocity?

I joined the Velocity committee in 2022 as an Events team member. After my Young Enterprise pursuits and enjoying my first few years of University in other clubs that focus on the intersection of innovation and social issues, Velocity was the perfect place to carry on my journey in entrepreneurship. It amplified my passion for innovation and entrepreneurship and allowed me to make life-long friends.

What are you most looking forward to for Velocity 2024?

This is a tough one. I am looking forward to so many things, but that’s a chat over coffee!

Firstly, I am excited to expand on the Outreach front and strengthen our relationships with other clubs, programmes and faculties at the University. Being a part of the University ecosystem, it is crucial our events are aligned with the needs and interests of all communities and groups of individuals. I cannot wait to see fresh faces and provide them with the best opportunities Velocity has to offer.

I look forward to breaking down the buzzword that is “Innovation and Entrepreneurship”. Through our events and Outreach workshops, I look forward to alleviating the fears that come with the words, providing clarity that the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is available to all. By inviting students and staff into our spaces and celebrating the journeys of fellow innovators and entrepreneurs, I look forward to making Velocity a home for everyone.

Lastly, I am privileged to work alongside a team of students on the Velocity committee. They are a bunch of individuals who work incredibly hard behind the scenes to create the Velocity magic. Sharing the same vision and goals for 2024, I look forward to spending time with them and making the 21st year of Velocity an awesome one!

Bring on 2024! It will be an exciting year, and I cannot wait to see you all in our spaces.

What is your elevator pitch for reasons to get involved in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship?

Picture this: endless opportunities, the chance to turn your wildest dreams into reality, and the exhilarating journey of building something from scratch. Innovation isn’t just about creating the next big thing; it’s a mindset that sparks positive change and problem-solving. Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is the ultimate adventure where you get to be the captain of your own waka, navigating uncharted waters and reaping the rewards of your hard work.

Within everyone lies little sparks of an innovator or an entrepreneur. It is about honing in on those sparks and bringing your revolutionary ideas to life. This world is a rollercoaster of challenges, learning experiences and triumphs that shape your spirit. You will get so much out of your experience, and backing from a community of driven and supportive entrepreneurs who are more than happy to share their knowledge.

So why wait? Create your home in this world, embrace the journey and let’s innovate together! 

What is an interesting fact that readers might not know about you?

I am an avid coffee drinker. I consider it a warm bitter hug in a mug! Amidst Covid lockdowns, during my first year of university and the complete turnaround of sleep schedules, I do admit I drank about 20 cups of coffee over a 48-hour period. I do NOT recommend, but it is safe to say I did bounce of the walls for a while after that. My coffee habits are much better now, but I will never say no to going on a coffee run!

What is your dream job?

My dream job would have to be a founder. The world of entrepreneurship is an ever-changing sphere. It is about paving your own path, filling a void, and making the world a better place. I would love to build Hijabity or create something else from scratch. The ideal would be to intersect my academic background and community to build something for people across different communities. For now, I do not know exactly what the venture would look like, but that’s the fun of it all.