Courtesy: Adenah Bayoh/Adenah Bayoh
MADAMENOIRE sat down with Adenah Bayoh, A . She shared her experiences of overcoming obstacles as a Black woman in the male-dominated field. Adenah also provided valuable insights on the importance of perseverance and hard work in achieving success, and how she leveraged her unique perspectives to create opportunities and drive change. With a career spanning several years, she has established herself as a business leader in her field, known for her innovative ideas, entrepreneurial spirit and her ability to overcome obstacles as a Black woman in the corporate world.
In this interview, MN will take a closer look at Adenah’s journey, her achievements and the valuable lessons that can be learned from her experiences.
MADAMENOIRE: We’re beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with you. Your reputation as a leader in the restaurant industry, the real estate and development community industry, is truly inspiring. We’re really excited to hear about your experiences, your strategies that you use to help achieve your success in business.
Adenah Bayoh: Hi!
So, first, how was your holiday? I know it’s probably been super busy business-wise.
Yeah, I think I would say it was booked and busy. The holiday is always that time for me that I spent to really think about other people. I spent mostly the holidays giving back. We did the seven days of giving, where we did the week of giving, where we closed down each one of our restaurants and welcomed people in the community just as a thank you. Anybody could have came. You could be a regular customer. You could have been someone living in a homeless shelter.
We just opened our doors to people as a way of saying thank you. Thank you for supporting us throughout the year. Without you, we won’t be here. Especially the kind of year that restaurants have had, Black entrepreneurs have had. I just kind of take the time to reflect and really give back.
That’s amazing. I can see that you’re definitely into giving back to your community and making an impact. Can you talk about what inspired you to become an entrepreneur and a real estate mogul?
If I was to be really talking my s**t, I would say I was born to do this.
I love it.
But the person that was the catalyst to really bring it out of me was my grandmother. She was this amazing woman with no education in a very deep, remote part of Africa. There was no running water, women had no rice, and she made her own name. She created a business that encouraged other women around her to do the same thing or if they were doing it, to step it up.
I want to say I highlight my grandmother, but ultimately, it’s the community. It’s this community that I grew up in, in Newark, where every corner I turned. I was doing something entrepreneurial on every corner. I’m destined to do this. Oprah said, “Our time on earth here is to find out what that purpose is, what is your highest and best calling.” Every day, I try to walk towards that. That is when you’re in alignment. I feel my best is when I am in my businesses.
Yes, I am here for it! Would you say the real estate development business is male-dominated? Are there not a lot of women out there doing what you’re doing?
Oh, it’s an understatement right now, especially the space that I am in. I could send you some statistics around male owned real estate development company versus women owned real estate development company, especially when it comes to Black women. I think we represent less than 2% of the industry. So, it’s extremely male-dominated. But the interesting part about that is that the end users of affordable housing are typically women.
Do you have any advice for the little Black girls out there who want to tap into the real estate field, who want to branch into that field, to create something of their own? Maybe some advice for girls out there on how to get started?
Yes. This is the story of me. I blew up ten years overnight. I’ve been doing this real estate thing since I was eight years old in my village, where my grandmother owned property. At nine or eight years old, she would send me around the different homes and apartments that she have collect and rent. Fast forward, I came to the United States as a refugee. I went to college, I was a resident assistant. I took care of the dorms for my university.
In a sense. We were property manager a year and a half out of college. I bought my very first three family houses at age 21. I became a landlord. I had two apartments and I lived on the first floor. At age 21 years old, I bought I had about twelve, three-four families homes by the time I was 25 years old. I lost all of it. In 2018, when the financial crisis hit, I saw my whole wealth diminish, gone. I look at it as about falling down and not staying there and getting back up. When you get back up, understand, you get back up stronger.
So, my advice to young girls, particularly the young ones that are sitting and listening and looking, I want to show them because you can’t be what you can’t see. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. I want to show them. I want to make this journey for them a lot easier. The advice that we have for them if this is their true passion, is start early, start investing. Buy your property, start investing early on. Work your way up the rank and have a vision of how big you want this thing to go. So, the biggest advice for a young woman trying to get into this is start very early and start by buying your very first house.
That is some great advice. My grandmother, had a couple of rental properties. She had me out there, like you said, 7-8 years old, writing down the statements and working on the books. So that’s amazing.
Yeah, definitely! That’s how you start.
Being successful and busy, how do you balance the demands of running a business with your personal and family life?
You can try all you want. You can give it your best shot, but it’s a juggling act. As a mother of two children, someone is always losing. I think that this whole idea that we need to have it all. We could and we should, but I think we have to give ourselves more credit. I tell myself some time, don’t be so hard on yourself. If you judge yourself in this very moment, you may be feeling horrible. But if I look at it in totality, I’m a damn good mother.
Because what I’m doing right now is building a foundation for them that I cannot give them without making sacrifices. So, it’s very important that we understand that there’s going to be trade off. You either want to build a very strong foundation for your kids and explain to them and bring them along in your journey. Remind them that you’re doing this for them, and make sure to make that connection, that mommy is not this basketball game, but she’s at a very important meeting that is going to set our family up, our community up to win.
Wow, that’s really inspiring. It’s just showing people that there’s no limits to what you can do. There’s nothing that can hold you back from achieving what you’re set out there to do and I feel like you’re like, the perfect example of that.
Yes! I tell people this all of the time. There is nothing that’s going to come in God’s way for the plans that he has for you, not even yourself. So be patient with yourself. Nothing you can do, nothing you can say is going to stand in the way of what God has in store for you. The challenge is how patient and how diligent are you going to be with his plan for you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone because everyone is on their own journey and things are going to get very bad.
Everything does. Even your heartbeat goes up and it goes down every second. Always remember that things are up and down and be patient with yourself. When people tell you along the way, this can be done, you can’t do this, don’t concern yourself with them. Be concerned with your journey and knowing that no matter what they say, you’re going to get there. You may get there with them easily or you will get there eventually, but you will get there.
I just read the article on your latest development project and you’re receiving the 9 percent low-income housing tax. That’s amazing. How do you feel about having such an accomplishment? Do you have any notable accomplishments or awards that you received in your career?
Yeah, last year, being the first African American woman in the state of New Jersey to win the 9% tax credit was major. Again, I go back to I want to show young girls coming up what is possible and any chance I can get to exemplify that that is what I want to do. So, I’m still in awe that this happened, but we’re going to continue to shatter glass ceilings one ceiling at a time every day. We’re on par right now to start launching our Cornbread Farm to Table franchise.
It’s our premier soul food concept that we have location in Maplewood, we have locations in Newark, we have location in Brooklyn, we have Montclair right now on the construction. Then also we have our other sister brand, Urban Vegan. I want to be in a space where I can bring premium concept to communities of color and people of color where they can have enlightened experiences.
So, let’s talk about Cornbread and Urban Vegan.
Yes. Soon to be Brick City Vegan. We’re changing the name.
Okay with the name change, Brick City Vegan! So, what was the inspiration behind these restaurants?
So, let’s talk Cornbread Farm to Soul. Cornbread Farm to Soul for me is a love letter to my ancestors that came before me that made something out of nothing. It’s a love letter to anyone that ever loves Soul Fool. But when you go in a major city, you have to go in a hole in a wall because no one is doing it in a way that is fly, in a way that is irrelevant to the culture today.
So, Cornbread is a premier soul food concept. Our tagline is from farm to soul. We obsess over our ingredients. We are cooking collard greens every day. We are cooking our yams, scratch! We are making the best cornbread you ever going to have.Our goal is to open cornbread all around major cities in the country.
That is amazing. I know you guys have amazing reviews. I need to find my way up there so I can get you some cornbread.
The food is amazing.
How do you source and select your ingredients for these dishes?
I have an amazing co-founder Her name is Elzadie “Zadie” Smith. She is from Tifton, Georgia. These recipes have been in her families for years, centuries. She obsessed over them. Like her cornbread dressing is probably the best cornbread dressing you ever going to have. Her Black-eyed peas are amazing. Her sauté cabbage is to die for. Her dad used to be a chef in the south and passed these ingredients and these recipes down to her. We came together and we formed Cornbread Farm to Soul.
Being from the down South, I already know they can throw it down.
Throw it down, slap your momma’ kind of throw it down.
Can you talk about any special events or collaborations you’ve hosted at your restaurant?
Yeah, in the summer and winter, we do these amazing series. We do a jazz night. The Maplewood Store is hosting a Jazz Night this weekend, and we bring local jazz musicians over, and they perform to a live show. We do this series called Jazz After Dark, where we bring a local jazz artist. You grab a blanket, grab some food, and you just listen to a nice jazz band playing for you as you eat.
When my store opens, we are going to do this thing called Jazz and Brunch, where, again, we’re focused on music. It’s paying homage to the culture. I want people to think of cornbread as this is for the culture.
Can you tell us about any future projects or business goals that you’re currently working towards?
Yeah, we’re working on right now, trying to work out a deal with Whole Foods. Eighty percent of everything we cook at Urban Vegan gets made in-house. Our signature burgers get made in-house. Our patties get made in-house. Our dressings get made in house. We’re working right now to start selling our patties in Whole Foods. We’ll start locally with our local Whole Foods and our local groceries here. But that’s the next frontier. Urban Vegan selling their patties, our dressing in groceries. So, we’re just going to continue to build our hospitality brands and build our real estate holdings.
I love that you’re elevating, you know, achieving even more. I love to see it. I love Black women just succeeding and doing the thing. It’s empowering, and I’m just so excited for you and your business.
I think it’s about empowering women to fight for equity. I don’t want equality. We would never be equal. Don’t give me your equality. Give me equity. Give me the ability and resources for me to be successful. I think it’s very important for us to start talking about the ability for us to set women up to be successful and start moving hurdles out of our ways.
If you look at a statistic, 61 percent of Black women will start their businesses without funding for any financial institution. That’s not right. That’s not how we should be funding our businesses. But we are locked out of this financial institution because we’re not normalized. I think for me, it’s empowering women and young girls. We know this is not fair, but what can we do too slightly even out the playing field?
I couldn’t agree more. Well, thank you so much. Do you have any other business advice, anything else that you would like to share?
I think one of the most amazing things I say to people all the time is, I stand here as the face of my company, but it’s a team of people behind me that makes shit happen every day. My advice to any entrepreneur is build yourself a great team. If they’re not challenging you, get rid of them. If they’re not bringing new ideas and how you can improve a skill and be great at what you’re doing, replace them with people that’s going to be in your organization, that are rooting for you but are challenging you.
It’s been a pleasure learning about your business journey and the impact you’ve made in the industry. Thank you so much for your time!
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