Adenah Bayoh: ‘For me, Passion is a Key Ingredient for Success in Business’
When you have survived and persevered as a child living through the Liberian Civil War, anything and everything is possible. We tend to use problematic situations as an excuse if we aren’t successful or if we don’t put forth the effort. This isn’t nor will it ever be the case with Adenah Bayoh.
This New Jersey resident has turned her life experience, banking opportunity and entrepreneurial spirit into a winning formula that, no doubt, will increase even more as she continues to build her empire. She was the youngest IHOP franchisee and made that into the fastest-growing IHOP in the northeast. Impressive for a first-time restaurant owner.
Bayoh talks to The Industry Cosign about her reason for getting into real estate, her obligation to own her businesses locally, and her next plan when it comes to revitalizing communities.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur as opposed to just getting a job and working for someone else?
After graduating from college, I worked in banking where I did very well and was rewarded with promotions to mid-level management positions. However, I did not believe that I would be afforded an opportunity to occupy the top-level management roles. Ultimately, I knew that in order to run an organization, I would have to start my own organization.
Additionally, I was driven by the desire to see high quality businesses and housing in my community. I felt that the players in the market had decided that urban communities, like mine, are not worthy of high-level services and businesses because there is a belief that we do not have the income to support these businesses. This harmful perception led me to create the businesses I wished to see in my community.
What led you down the road to real estate and how has that path helped shape the way you do business?
I purchased my first home as an investment property while I was still working in banking. It was a three-family home in Irvington, and I lived on the first floor and rented out the upper floors. After the financial success of this investment, I decided to leverage it to buy more properties. I began purchasing abandoned and run-down homes and buildings, which I saw as a means to improve my community. Real estate development was a natural progression, especially given my interest in economic development. I saw urban redevelopment as a vehicle to assist in economic revitalization of my community on a larger scale. I approach every project from this perspective, I work to ensure all of my projects help to build and enhance communities.
You were once the youngest IHOP franchisee, not only that, but yours was the fastest-growing IHOP in the northeast. How were you able to enter a business you didn’t have prior experience in and end up becoming as successful as you have been with the franchise?
My grandmother was a huge inspiration in my life, and as a child in Liberia, I worked in the restaurant that she owned. Working with her, I developed a passion for the restaurant business and aspired to one day open my own. For me, passion is a key ingredient for success in business. I am also a very hard worker, and once I make up my mind to do something, I immerse myself in it and figure out how to succeed. Also, having gone through so much in my life, I understand the value of taking a risk, and I am not afraid to take risks.
What drives you to do the type of work you do? Where do you draw your passion from?
As I mentioned, I have always been passionate about community development and felt a sense of responsibility to do business in a way that benefits others. I also draw inspiration and motivation from having survived and persevered as a child through the Liberian Civil War. That experience gives me strength, fortitude, and gratitude.
What type of advice would you give someone who wants to get into real estate or the restaurant business? If you could teach a class or conduct a seminar, what would be the tools you’d use to give the audience some sound suggestions?
There is absolutely no substitute for hard work; I start my day at 4:30 a.m. because that is what it takes for me as an entrepreneur and a mother. Running your own business requires commitment and commitment requires work and this is even more so the case in the very competitive restaurant and real estate industries. Another important ingredient in the restaurant business, in particular, is customer service. People want to go places where they feel valued and connected, especially those living in urban areas. They need to be able to trust you.
In real estate it is similar, we are not simply developing buildings to rent to people, rather, we are transforming communities and creating properties that are respectful of the people who will live there and the communities where they are being developed.
When it comes to your work, it seems like you do most of your business locally. Is this by design and do you plan on expanding or going a further distance than what you are used to?
Yes, I choose to do business locally because these are my communities, and I feel an obligation to be a part of the solution to foster positive change. I am the product of a public high school in Newark, and I lived in Irvington. I think it is the responsibility of those of us who are doing well to pull others along with us.
Developing properties and operating restaurants locally is also an important part of my business model because I believe to be successful one must understand the dynamics of the local market, which requires an understanding of the culture and the ability to see economic opportunities where others have missed them. I have on-the-ground, long term knowledge of the areas where I am operating. That requires being local.
Although it seems like you do enough, do you have any other plans or anything in the works that you’d care to discuss?
My goal is to expand my IHOP ownership and to continue to grow my real estate development business. I am currently developing a 6.5-acre site in Irvington, which will serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of this urban center. My goal is to continue to have my projects revitalize communities by providing residents with access to jobs and high-quality affordable housing.
In the long term, I am looking to expand my business interests globally with an emphasis on West Africa, I would love to develop projects and open an IHOP in my native country of Liberia.