insight magazine

GEN NEXT: From Ghana to Global

How a summer trip inspired me, an unlikely CPA, to become an emerging power in the profession. By JEFF BADU, CPA | Winter 2019

Badu-310As a teen, I was headed down the wrong path. Now, I am a 27-year-old millionaire who owns several companies. I’m a serial entrepreneur, a licensed CPA, and founder of Badu Enterprises LLC, a multinational conglomerate of several companies, including Badu Tax Services LLC, a CPA firm that specializes in tax preparation, planning, and representation for individuals and businesses, and Badu Investments LLC, which is primarily a real estate investment company that acquires residential and commercial real estate properties to restore traditionally underserved areas, such as Chicago’s South Side.

Eleven years ago, though, I was a student at Uplift Community High School in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood and was involved in the wrong activities. I was on a path to where some of my friends are now—in prison or dead. But a summer visit to my native Ghana in 2008 changed everything.

In returning to the country I moved from when I was eight years old, I saw how people were living in Ghana, how so many were homeless—including a few of my family members—and I knew I just couldn’t have a life like that. I had become a bad kid surrounded with the wrong things; I had almost been put in handcuffs, and I knew that had to change. From then, I started going to church, and my goal became to help an infinite amount of people who have a profound desire to do better in life.

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s very hard to find a job in Ghana, and if you really want to start to make money, you have to be an entrepreneur. As a five-year-old, I would sell the chocolates and candies I was given on the streets of Accra. I followed the examples of my parents who are both entrepreneurs—my dad a real estate developer, my mom in real estate and retail.

I started my first business plan as an 18-year-old during my freshman year at the University of Illinois, where I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the Gies College of Business. I formed a client base by volunteering to do taxes for family and friends while I went to school and built that base to 100 people by the time I was 24 years old and working at PwC.

When I hit my 100th client, I quit my full-time job to officially start Badu Tax Services LLC in September 2016. In the three years since, my company serves 1,500 clients in all 50 states and in Canada, China, Russia, Liberia, and India. I now have 21 independent tax preparers working as contractors under my firm’s umbrella. My goal within the next 12 months is to have 50 contractors and an office in the United Kingdom. Within five years, I plan to have 10,000-plus clients, 250 independent contractors, and offices around the world. We want to have a global company. We’re trying to do something very, very big, and we’re looking to become the top tax firm in the world.

I became a millionaire in 2018—that had been my goal—and I want to be a billionaire by age 30 and have the financial freedom to change lives in the philanthropic world. I want to be a positive example for Chicago and for the world; I also serve as the second vice president for the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants and the treasurer of the Ghana National Council of Chicago. My goal is to help people live the lives they truly desire.

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