Five years ago, Ognadon “Eddy” Djagou decided to take what he learned from his hard work at Université de Lomé in Togo, West Africa, and put it towards his dream of starting a small business.
Now, that business has grown to earn statewide recognition.
Djagou, owner and founder of DJAAGOU-A Export, was recently recognized as Small Business Exporter of the Year in the state of Iowa by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
He received the award on May 6 during a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program session, of which he is a graduate. Djagou also received a bachelor’s degree in marketing management.
“I’m so proud of winning,” Djagou said. “I came to Muscatine in 2015. … I had a desire to own my own business and support my community. When I came to Muscatine, I thought that it was a good place to start one. It’s a quiet place,” with a market for diverse products.
“Many people come in to look at them, and because they don’t have to drive to the Quad Cities (for these products), it’s a good way to save money for the diverse people of the Muscatine community,” he said.
Opened in 2017, DJAAGOU-A specializes in the wholesale of food and beverages as well as other products from around the world. Although the business’ primary export is focused on Africa, it also exports products to Mexico, India, Japan, German, China, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Uruguay and Brazil. The business offers a variety of dried soups, baked goods, snacks, candies, pickled and preserved vegetables and sauces, in addition to vitamins and supplements.
The business has also expanded to products such as makeup, clothing and apparel.
“(Djagou) is an exceptional example of an immigrant entrepreneur who achieves the American Dream through small business success,” Jayne Armstrong, district director of the SBA’s Iowa district office, said.
The business recently received financial assistance through the SBA’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant, which allowed Djagou to market his products internationally, further expanding his business.
Djagou said his eyes are set on further business growth — all in the hopes of continuing to support the Muscatine community by providing jobs through his business alongside all the products that are available to purchase.
“My goal is to keep working hard so that my company can grow,” he said. “I’m very excited to keep working and make a big company for the community.”