If you ever imagine that life handed you the worst pie, and gave you every reason to sulk and count your many woes, then you sure have never met Adenah Bayoh. She has seen the tides, fierce and intense, yet her faith has remained strong and her spirit steady and sound.
As a young girl, war forced Bayoh out of her home country of Liberia into a refugee camp in Sierra Leone , forlorn and in great distress. She remembers her flight from Liberia, with a neighbour pushing her grandmother in a wheelbarrow.
Years later, luck came to her rescue, and presented her a means to migrate to the U.S. where through sheer determination and positive reasoning, Bayoh not only put her herself through Fairleigh Dickinson College by working three jobs but also became an amazing force to reckon with in business. First she excelled in real estate. She launched her real estate career by saving money from her college jobs to buy a three-family house in Irvington, which she rented out to tenants while living on the first floor. After this, she started investing in urban properties, purchasing several residential and commercial properties in her early 20’s and about a decade later; the young Bayoh rose to become the youngest-ever African-American franchisee of IHOP, a United States-based multinational restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods.
Now I remember a favourite quote of one of my dearest friends, “the number one skill in life is not giving up.”
Indeed I agree. If there’s any skill that has become Bayoh’s in her sojourn in life, it is simply not giving up. Bayoh insists that her biggest entrepreneurial inspiration was her grandmother, who infused in her the notion that there’s nothing strong enough in life to replace hard work. She admits that it was while working in the older woman’s restaurant in Liberia that she gained an intense passion for business. “There is no substitute for hard work. You have to put the work in if you want to be successful. My grandmother would always say: ‘You have to wake up before everyone else gets up and do more than everyone else.’ I watched my grandmother navigate her way through almost any challenge because of her willingness to put in the work.” She tells Entrepreneur.com in an interview.
Bayoh understands that whatever level of adversity anyone is faced with in life, he can either ride on it to greatness or allow himself to be drowned or even crushed by it. To her, it’s really a choice left for every man. “Adversity puts you at a crossroads — you can allow it to victimize you or propel you. Escaping the war made me hungry for opportunity. I figured out that there was no problem for which I could not find a solution if I dedicated all of my efforts and smarts to it. So, I bring that tenacity, work ethic and commitment to everything I do.”
Now she can tell her story with a broad smile, because like many will say, she has been there and done that. She is a survivor!
Bayoh learnt to think like an entrepreneur at a very young age. At 8, even while in the refugee camp, she would travel back to Liberia to get local vegetable and then return to the camp in Sierra Leone to sell to her fellow refugees. Her experience thought her to look out for the opportunity in every difficult situation, as there is always one.
Despite her many challenges in life, the young Liberian has remained focused on her goal and delighted with the quality of life she has. She acknowledges that at some point she had to make efforts to conquer her own insecurities, purge herself of the wrong information and unhealthy notions that she has imbibed through the years.
Prior to IHOP, the leading lady worked in the banking sector, where she rose to mid-level management positions; but even that was not enough to quench her entrepreneurial thirst.
And you know there’s no stopping this highly determined mind. Bayoh’s goal is to expand her IHOP ownership and to continue to grow her real estate development business. Currently, she is developing a 6.5-acre site in Irvington, which will serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of the urban centre.
Bayoh aims to continue to revitalize the communities with her projects by providing residents with access to jobs and high-quality affordable housing. In the future, she will like to extend the goodwill to West Africa and also open an IHOP in her native country of Liberia.
The challenges we face in life are not meant to paralyse us, but to make us stronger and more experienced to be the best in whatever thing we lay our hands to do. Don’t be discouraged; instead seek the opportunity in whatever difficulty you face.
© 2015 – 2017, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.