Monday, November 28, 2011

My Journey with an Upcoming Star

This is the second week that I am speaking about stars (trust me, I am not speaking about me lol). I heard someone say that stars are recognized in the ring but are made in the gym (I made that up).

If there is one thing I learned from coaching Basketball, is the ability to spot potential in people before anybody else. I remember saying to one of my players that she would be one of, if not THE best point guards in the league for years, and she laughed at me. Looking back, I truly understand why she laughed. She was just learning how to do a lay up and I was talking about being the best of the best. Guess what! As I predicted, she ended up being the best point guard for years (am I a psychic or what!). Or maybe she had a great (and yet modest) coach.

I can't even remember why I am talking about Basketball. Oh yes. Potential...Let me get to it.

It took me two years to write about this guy. Every time I wanted to write a blog about him, he always said no (for two years!!!!). With respect to his low profile, I persisted and he finally agreed to my request.

His name is Diego Ndikumasabo but his friends call him DJ. In fact, he has been a DJ for over 14 years (and a very successful one indeed).

He came to Canada at a young age, and his main priority was his studies (good choice). I first saw his leadership skills back in 2003 when he was running the Burundian association of Toronto with his best friend Christian B. There were times between 2005 and 2009 where I saw Diego attending University full time, working at Citibank Canada and on week-ends, he would would work as a DJ (What a hard working young man!!!). Did you know that he has been organizing Caribana Events for nine years in row? Tirelessly ambitious, his goal was always to open a place “to serve his community” as he always says.

Life has a funny way of making dreams come true. Sometimes dreams happen in a disguised way that it's hard to see them. While my friends (Diego and Nicolas) were working at a place called Nile in downtown Toronto, its owners decided to shut it down without notice. No more work for my friends; or was that really the case?

Instead of finding another place for work or blaming the owners, Diego got this crazy idea of buying the closing business. Why crazy? You may ask. Simply because he was still a student, two months away from graduation day and he did not have enough money to do it. But as they say, where there is a will there is a way. I don't know how he did it, but he found a way to set up a corporation, secure the business, put a team together and Ngoma Lounge was born.

Buying the business was not the hard part (even though it meant putting other projects on hold). Instead, it was keeping it open which proved to be one of Diego's biggest challenges . Soon after buying the business, he thought it would be a piece of cake to run it. Guess what! It took 8 long months for the government to issue a license for Ngoma Lounge. Getting the liquor license and all those other stuff you need to open a bar took so long that my friend wanted to give up thousands of times. Did I mention that he was paying the rent for a place that did not make him a penny? Try that one.

On November 30, 2009, Ngoma finally received permission to open. We were all there to witness the grand opening on December 25th, 2009. His dream was coming true (so he thought). But in order to run Ngoma, he had to quit his daily corporate job at Citibank (hey peeps, do not try this at home. Lol)

Do you know why my friend did not want me to write about this story for the last two years? Because it has been two years of constant struggle to keep Ngoma open. I have the opportunity of being one of Diego's closest friends and I knew from the beginning that he was going to make it even though I knew it was not going to be an easy task. He spent (and still does) many sleepless nights to keep the place open so that he “could serve his community”. Trust me when I say that he DOES serve his community. Now Ngoma is the reference for the African community in Toronto, thanks to the winning team of: Diego, Nicolas, Kijanya, Umwali, Jehann, Nounou, Faustin and his wife.

It has been a constant battle for Diego, mainly because it was his first business venture and also because he started with very little capital. But he has a heart of champions. He is a champion and one of the upcoming Superstar entrepreneurs. Against all odds he kept his dream alive and the best is yet to come. I just know it. Happy 2nd Anniversary Ngoma.

Hey, Diego, two years of my free Sprite at Ngoma just made you a Superstar. You are featured on my blog. By the way, what's the next move? Let me guess, taking over the STOCK MARKET? lol

Moral of the story? Do you want to make a difference in your community? Just ask those customers who have been visiting Ngoma lounge every weekend for the past two years.

Always a pleasure

The Journeyman