Djonabaye Israel’s father, who served in the military and as a church leader in N’Djamena, Chad, would hold his son close as he delivered his sermons.
“He is my best friend, but he’s also very strict,” Djonabaye says of his father. “He taught me the value of humility and integrity.”
“You can’t stay in my dad’s house and be lazy,” Djonabaye adds.
Today Djonabaye, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and the co-founder and CEO of I-Plus Global Solutions, is working with individuals across the country to write business plans and acquire the funding necessary to get their products and services to market.
But, as Djonabaye explains, his wasn’t a straightforward trajectory. It involved a number of setbacks, not the least of which was a failed business venture.
“I wanted to start a business in the transportation sector,” Djonabaye says. “It was based around an innovative parking model, but failed miserably.”
“I didn’t get help from a coach or a mentor; I didn’t know where to go for resources.”
But it was during those most frustrating years that Djonabaye realized his true calling: helping entrepreneurs to find the help they needed. As he saw it, it was only after failing and understanding intimately where he went astray, in not seeking the help of others, that he was able to advise entrepreneurs differently.
“It brought me such joy to see people achieving their dreams,” Djonabaye says. “I knew then that I had to go into consulting; I had to help people realize their potential.”
For Djonabaye, it was a steadfast spirit that saw him through the launch of his enterprise.
“You are going to traverse some difficult terrain,” Djonabaye says. “But you have to be resilient.”
In moments of indecision, Djonabaye returns to the humility his father taught him. As he explains, his father’s humility didn’t come from a position of weakness.
“He taught me that if you are humble, you can lead people far,” Djonabaye says. “And yet, when I do something, I want to be the best at it.”
Walking the line between selflessness and determination can be challenging for Djonabaye, but, as he explains, his intentional, directed work ethic continues to center him.
“You have to focus on the problem you are solving, not on making money,” Djonabaye says.
“As I see it, the most admirable leaders are rooted in their principles and dreams; they are passionate, even in moments of uncertainty, and it’s that passion, that integrity, that makes them inspiring leaders.”
One memory of his father that Djonabaye can’t seem to forget is of him waking up every morning to gather water for their family. It’s a diligence he can’t seem to shake off.
Inspired by Djonabaye’s story? Learn how you can build your financial literacy skills on our YALIEntrepreneurs page.
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