CHICAGO — A former Chicago gang member not only left a life on the streets to become a self-made millionaire, but also has made it his purpose in life to show others how to change the trajectory of their own lives.
Nothing about Jeff Badu gives you any indication he's ever been anything but successful. Today, he says his company Badu Enterprises serves 1,500 clients in 50 states and five countries.
"I first hit that million dollar point when I was 25," Badu said.
But after moving from Ghana to the United States at eight years old Badu says he joined a gang in Uptown, drawn by its promises of protection. But he says he ended up feeling like a prisoner in his own neighborhood.
"Between eight to 16, those were the toughest time of my life because I was surrounded by so much negativity," Badu said. "I was literally trapped, I couldn't walk certain places."
When he did walk, it was with his childhood friend Adura Yaboroh.
"We used to walk to Uplift [High School], I think for a year we never stopped walking together," Badu said.
It was a trip back to Ghana during his last year of high school that changed everything for Badu. Specifically, the words from an auntie who told him to take advantage of his unique opportunity.
"'Your parents took you from Ghana to the U.S., your parents struggled so hard, went through the lottery system for you to come and mess it up,'" he says she told him.
Badu returned home with a new perspective and determination to make good on his life. His grades improved, and he got involved with his community and church. He graduated from Uplift along with his friend Adura, but unlike the rest of the gang members, Badu set his focus pursuing a college degree.
"I knew it had to start with me. I had to change my lifestyle," Badu said.
He found success in the business and finance industry, far removed from the streets he grew up on. Then on the morning of October 28, 2014, his friend Adura was shot five times in the head at a gas station.
"Literally he was helping somebody with a care tire or spare tire and the next thing you know they walk up to him and shot five times," Badu said.
That day changed Badu's trajectory yet again. He says he wishes he could have reached out to his friend and helped him take a different path.
"I felt very responsible for that because I had turned my life around but I didn't go ahead and turn other people's lives around at that time," Badu said.
He set up an accounting and finance advisory business in Uptown to show others how they too could live a "rich mindset." Using his home-grown business, Badu is now a well-known face in Uptown, speaking at schools, holding financial workshops and reaching out to those struggling to see their own potential.
"For me that's what I hope to become for somebody, be that inspiration that somebody needs in such a a way that their life is gonna change drastically," Badu said.
While his self-made million from his business enterprise is impressive, he says it's no longer the goal.
"Whether it's a billion or it's a million... it's more about what you're doing with that money. Are you making an impact? That's what truly matters the most to me," Badu said.
Through his website, Badu provides hundreds of resources from available scholarship money, articles on everything from investing, property taxes, debt and even repossession. There's also a blog and podcast that gives advice and tips to people of pretty much any income level, all for free, to empower folks to find their own financial freedom.