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The Vision to Help Everyone See the Big Picture

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenters Henry Amoloja of Murol. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on January 14, 2016.

Have you ever taken a group selfie, shared it on Instagram, and found that some of the people got cut out of the frame? That’s what happens when you take a photo in landscape orientation and share it on sites like Instagram, where the photos are displayed in portrait orientation. Instead of seeing the entire photo, you only see the part of the photo that fits into a square, and anything (or anyone) appearing outside of that square is lost.

Having experienced this problem, Henry Amoloja set out to create a solution. That solution: MUROL, a landscape orientation photo-sharing app.

COMPANY PROFILE 

  • Name of company: MUROL
  • Website: www.murolapp.com
  • Business Start Date: April 2016
  • Number of Employees: 4 team members: Marketing Director Tamir Hussein, CTO Ben Fossen, Business Development Specialist Jeremiah Osopko, and Creative Director Elly Olson.
  • Number of Customers: Approaching 2,000 users

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Name: Henry Amoloja
  • Age: 24
  • City you live in: Maplewood
  • Country of birth: Desenzano Del Garda, Italy
  • High School attended: Roseville Area High School
  • College attended: University of Minnesota Duluth

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I was raised in Nigeria. My family immigrated to Minnesota in 2003 and I have lived here ever since. I took up football and track in high school. Playing sports taught me the value of hard work and the reward of the seeing the results. While at college at UMD, I took an interest in business courses like Intro to Marketing and Corporate Finance. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just had no idea what I was good at and what products or services I would selling.

I began cutting my own hair in college because I did not trust any barbers in Duluth to do a good job with my hair. I bought a clipper set and began experimenting with different hair styles on myself. Friends took notice and became coming to me for a free haircut. I eventually got good enough to start charging $5 and I saved up to buy professional clippers and started charging $10. This was a rewarding experience for me to monetize on a self-taught skill.

I had a short stint of selling custom sunglasses in college, as well. I knew I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body but I struggled to harness it to its full potential. I began reading business articles outside of school and becoming really fascinated by branding, marketing strategies, financial statements and other components of corporations.

A co-worker named Luida recommended a book to me called “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill that completely changed my life. I feel like it was exactly what I needed to fully maximize my entrepreneurial potential. I read other self-development and business books and planned to start a company when I graduated.

After college, I decided to attend a nine-month barbering program while working to support myself. When the program concluded I accepted a job at Ferguson Enterprises and was sent to North Carolina for a five-month training program. While in North Carolina, the concept behind MUROL was conceived. When I returned to Minnesota in January 2016, I worked hard on the branding and the first public announcement of what I had been working on. I added four people to the team to help with the overwhelming tasks. We launched in the app store on June 21, 2016. Held a beautiful launch event in August which brought us to 1,000 users about eight weeks later. In December of 2016, I decided to quit my sales job at Ferguson to focus on MUROL.

Q. What is your business?
A. MUROL is the first photo sharing app that allows users to capture, display and share photos on a strict landscape-oriented interface as opposed to a portrait-oriented interface.

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You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit jjhill.org/1-million cups

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We are in the process of renovating the James J. Hill Center to make the space more accessible to individuals with wheelchairs or limited mobility. This construction includes major renovation of our interior elevator. Due to this renovation, elevator access to the building and second floor for persons with accessibility constraints will be limited. A manual mobility Liftkar operated by a trained JJ Hill staff person will be available so that individuals in wheelchairs have access to our space. To schedule assistance before your visit, or if you have questions, please contact 651.265.5500. Unfortunately we are unable to transport electric scooters. Elevator construction will begin October 31, 2016 until completion in April, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience during this construction. Thank you for your understanding.

This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation.

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