inno25 headshots

Left to right: Samra Kanwal ('23), Adonis Abdullah ('21)

Senior Adonis Abdullah and sophomore Samra Kanwal are both among Charlotte Inno's “Inno under 25,” a new award recognizing leading young entrepreneurs in the city. 

Charlotte Inno is a national publication that cultivates local entrepreneurs through media and engagement marketing. This is the first year Charlotte Inno has given the award. To be recognized as one of the leading innovators in “Inno Under 25” is a significant accomplishment for these young nominees. 

Cassidy Beegle-Jackson, Senior Marketing and Events Coordinator at Charlotte Inno, says “the nominee qualifications are to be under 25, have experience and notable impact in the tech ecosystem and work toward a goal that betters a facet of the ecosystem or the city at large.” Beagle-Jackson told the Niner Times that the list is extremely exclusive.

The nominees in “Inno Under 25” identified obstacles in the community and introduced solutions through their unique skill sets and determination to succeed.

Tech startups are growing in the Charlotte community and UNC Charlotte is encouraging innovation through entrepreneurship programs like 49er Foundry and Ventureprise.

Adonis Abdullah won UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise Idea Pitch in the fall of 2019. In an interview with the Niner Times, Abdullah said that being named one of Charlotte Inno’s “Under 25” was “a very humbling and gratifying experience. It was a testament to all the hours we put in on a daily basis to try and make this idea a reality.

Abdullah went on to say that “seeing our hard work be recognized lets us know that we are on the right track with what we are doing and have the potential to make the difference we want to see.”

Abdullah, a UNC Charlotte senior double majoring in economics and business analytics, and his co-founder, Zach Alford, created Hot Route Analytics to improve sports performance and build college sports communities through technology and analytics. 

“I hope my impact on the UNC Charlotte community is that more people take the chance to explore their ideas, passions and dreams and see where it can lead,” said Abdullah.

Samra Kanwal, a sophomore at UNC Charlotte triple majoring in history, management information systems and operations and supply chain management, developed Volunto to connect nonprofit organizations and volunteer college students. Her goal was to create a digital platform that connects students to nonprofit organizations based on their skill sets. 

“The biggest challenge I faced was validating my idea and making sure that this was a need that nonprofits and college students actually had," said Kanwal. "I conducted more than 30 customer interviews throughout this entire process and was forced to alter the direction of my company in response to the information I received.”

Kanwal’s advice to her peers interested in starting their own business is: “Just go for it. Do not let your self-doubt or apprehension hold you back. It is better to fail pursuing something you love than not pursue it at all.” 


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