Purpose Over Passion

“I feel like entrepreneurship is kind of a mindset,” says Mbelu-Dania. “As much as people like to think that it’s a job, it’s really a mindset.”

A born entrepreneur if ever there was one, her time as an entrepreneurship and economics major at Northern Kentucky University honed her innate skills. But traveling from Nigeria to Highland Heights wasn’t her first plan.

“Interestingly, I hadn’t initially applied to NKU,” she explains. “I was so sure that I was going to Georgetown or somewhere in the D.C. tristate area.” But her brother intervened—as a student at NKU himself, he wanted his sister to join him in northern Kentucky, and their parents conceded. “It was culture shock at first, but I loved it,” she says, pointing to cultural diversity as a key takeaway from the experience.

“We had to submit business plans or come up with an idea for something that we wanted to run,” she continues. “Everyone in the class kind of focused around the Kentucky area, but because that wasn’t my cultural experience, I decided I wanted to do something that worked well in my environment.” Mbelu-Dania wrote her business plan around the logistics of transporting petroleum products, a challenge in her home country. “My financial projections were based on the Nigerian market, and my professors couldn’t understand it. So when I did my presentations, it always seemed like I was thinking a little too big, but really it was based on where I was coming from.”

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Adaora Mbelu