BU Alum Douhadji Turns Hardship Into Opportunity Through Determination, Education
Bellevue University alumnus Kofi Douhadji has spent nearly his whole life transforming poverty into possibility. Growing up in a village in west Africa, he was often embarrassed by the hand-me-downs he wore. “My parents couldn’t afford clothing, and kids would come up to me and say ‘that’s my t–shirt’,” he said.
Douhadji’s entrepreneurial spirit arose early on, as he found ways to see past his circumstances. ”I changed the clothes so they would become something so unique that whoever owned them before couldn’t recognize them,” he said. He became so good at the technique that he customized clothes for his fellow students in exchange for food and school supplies. This later became the inspiration for his first business.
Fulfilling Dreams with a Big Move
After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, Douhadji started his first company in Togo in 2008. It was the first of several entrepreneurial ventures, including a media company, an executive coaching business and a line of athletic wear.
Though he had a successful engineering career in Africa, Douhadji felt there was more to explore. He remembers having a fascination with the United States from a young age. “I was a fan of the culture and America’s place on the world stage,” he said. In 2016, he moved to the U.S. with his wife and young daughter.
“We left everything behind and started new in the U.S.,” Douhadji said. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
Giving Back Through Service
After relocating across the globe, Douhadji felt gratitude for the opportunities that opened up for his family. “One time I was watching my daughter in the living room, so happy and carefree,” he said. “I am thankful she gets to have a different life than I had. I just felt so grateful and started looking for ways to give back to this wonderful country.”
He became a United States citizen, joined the Air Force and has since become a commissioned officer. “I came in and I just loved it,” he said.
Pursuing New Paths Through Education
Coming to the U.S. also empowered Douhadji to pursue his long-term goals and interests. “Civil engineering was more to make a living, but when I moved here, I wanted to align myself with my purpose in life.”
His true passion is inspiring and lifting others up. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Analysis and Management, and a Master of Science in Management helped him increase his skills and knowledge across all his pursuits.
They worked with me on tuition and using my GI bill, and showed a lot of compassion.
“I learned about Bellevue University when I was stationed in Washington state,” Douhadji said. “I researched online, and found out that Bellevue University had an office on base, where you could go talk to real people and discuss your goals.”
He earned both degrees online, and said the way the courses are structured set him up for success. “There were many things that I could apply immediately to my military career, my businesses and my personal development,” he said. “They were not abstract concepts that you would apply to some job, some day. I loved this a lot.”
He said the supportive staff and faculty at Bellevue University played a large role in his success. “They worked with me on tuition and using my GI bill, and showed a lot of compassion,” he said.
In fact, Douhadji still stays in touch with some of the professors he met. “You can reach out any time you need help, and they’ll be there,” he said.
Writing His Own Future
Douhadji always wanted to be an author, and he brought that dream to life when he wrote “Unbroken Optimist.”
“I wanted to get as close as possible to my personal experience. When we share our story, we make the world less lonely for others who relate,” he said.
With the book, Douhadji hopes to help others transform and lead the lives they want. “People overlook their potential and let external conditions control their lives,” he said. “I intentionally got out of poverty, worked to create jobs for others, and made it all the way to Bellevue University and beyond.”
Douhadji and his wife now have three children and he hopes to pass on the lessons he’s learned. “I want to create and foster an environment where my kids can design their own lives and be good stewards in the world,” he said.
He plans to keep learning and growing to impact the world through writing, coaching and speaking. In fact, Douhadji has a second book coming out soon. “I want to bring the best to the world to make the impossible possible where I can,” he said.