By Mary Hopkins
“If you have a passion, you have to work hard.”
Ognadon “Eddy” Djagou (pronounced Og-na-don Jah-goo) exemplifies that. Since arriving here with immigrant status from Togo, West Africa, he had been planning a business venture to support fellow immigrants. You can find DJAAGOU-A (Jah-Goo-Ay) next to Hyink’s Standard just upriver from the bridge in Muscatine. This unique business venture offers basic cultural food ingredients and lifestyle items, exports good to Africa, and provides immigrant counseling services.
Eddy came to the U.S. in 2012 after receiving a degree in marketing and management. To speed his acclimation process, he took ESL classes through Black Hawk College while managing fulltime work. After moving to Muscatine in 2015, he continued online study in addition to fulltime hours at Allsteel.
Eddy used what he learned to focus his passion for supporting African people into a business for all immigrants. DJAAGOU-A uses teams on the ground in Togo, Liberia, Kenya, Ghana, Congo, and Benin to learn what those markets are seeking from the west. He has created channels to supply goods in high demand to his team, who retails the products to African businesses, schools, and organizations. Through market research, the team compiles computers, keyboards, cell phones and other basic resources in short supply and high demand in West Africa.
Each export order, containing a variety of items, first travels by ground to be bundled into a shipping container. That container fits among dozens of others on a cargo ship and heads eastward. The process can take anywhere from 45 to 60 days. The ports of arrival require keen knowledge of the written and unwritten rules and customs to bring the goods to market. As any developing nation, the process of improvement moves at the speed of the available resources. Eddy’s vision is to continue to pump these types of resources while facilitating the community development that results.
Citizens of Muscatine can take advantage of a variety of services, including affordable African food ingredients and lifestyle items, copy/fax service, tax preparation, and international transfers (money orders). They also provide general immigration and cultural coaching to help people understand the fast-paced and often counter-intuitive American lifestyle. Eddy gained unique perspective on the complexity of the legal immigration process during his own journey. “I want to share my best with the community. It is for everyone,” he says.
Eddy explained the greatest barrier to turning his passion into a functioning business is time management. A business that operates in multiple time zones while juggling fulltime work and a family demands great focus.
With the growing number of immigrants who have chosen to settle in Muscatine County, there is a greater level of diversity here than ever. Eddy has decided there is an opportunity to serve this market. His goal is to help people acclimate to life in the United States while providing basic cultural elements not typically acknowledged or available locally. If you know or work with someone who has arrived in Muscatine from another country, perhaps you could recommend DJAAGOU-A.
By Mary Hopkins