Twenty-five bucks. That’s what Arday Ardayfio had when he landed in Fargo-Moorhead after leaving his hometown of Accra, Ghana. It was 1998 and he had come to America to study at Concordia College.
Seventeen years later, Arday is now the successful founder of Blueprint IT Solutions, is a former Concordia College Homecoming King, is married with two daughters, and is responsible for a world-record breaking pancake-making event. Yes, you read that right.
His secret sauce for his success, he claims, is not a secret at all. In fact, it can be summarized in two words, two words that are his token advice for everyone in the community – both New Americans, and locals alike.
“It worked at Concordia, it works everywhere,” he said. “You have to get involved, and show the first initiative.”
Getting involved got Arday plugged in at Concordia, where he was eventually crowned Homecoming King, graduated with a a double major in Business Administration and Computer Science and a minor in Psychology in 2002, and worked as the Admissions Representative for a few years. It led him to become president of the Fargo Kiwanis club, where he successfully held the annual pancake event and broke the world record for most pancakes served in a given time (35,000 in 8 hours).
It also led him to pursue a long-time dream: starting a company of his own. After a few different jobs, Arday had such a stable community of trust around him, that he knew he could do it. And he did.
He started off doing small IT jobs for hotels. Hotels always need someone to make disclaimer pages that pop up when guests log into WiFi and caution them not to do anything stupid (like illegal downloads). The second thing they need is someone to be on call 24/7, to pick up the phone when guests call with WiFi issues.
Arday was that guy. For a year and a half, he personally was the one to answer the phone calls of IT-challenged guests.
“Day and night. Thanksgiving, Christmas, golfing, church,” Arday said. “Anywhere I was I had my phone and my iPad with me. When my phone rang, you had to take it the first time. You had to.”
As they continued to work with more and more hotels, they began getting calls from Iowa, Wisconsin, and other areas where hotels needed a similar solution. The rise of mobile technology only boosted their work; the average guest has two mobile devices to connect to that WiFi. IT support is a greater need than ever.
“We knew we had struck gold,” Arday said.
Now, Arday has turned that into a company called Blueprint IT Solutions that provides computer solutions as well as Xerox sales. They have clients in 30 states, about a dozen employees, and brand new offices at 23 Broadway North – you can see them through the windows across from Old Broadway.
Message to New Americans: Show Up.
But his success is a lot more than the business or the building. Ask anyone in downtown Fargo who Arday Ardayfio is, and they will likely recognize the name. He has established a reputation of trust and of friendliness, one that has helped him create community ever since he left Ghana.
“I’ve made it my goal to always be the first person to reach out and say hi,” he said. “You can’t make a change if you stay with just your core group.”
Staying in a core group is something he often sees New Americans do. His encouragement is always to break out of that cycle.
“Don’t just wait for people to reach out to you,” he said. “You have to be the one to reach out.”
In a demographic that is predominantly Scandinavian (aka white), Arday said he and other New Americans, immigrants, and refugees, have a unique position to offer a more diverse reputation in the city.
“By showing up at places where you are the token black person, guess what, you get noticed,” he said. “By getting everyone at the table, you can speak for your groups.”
This is why he continuously shows up at city meetings, at rotary, at community events. He was inspired by other locals, like Thomas Jefferson, a State Farm agent who Arday saw as the only other “token black person” at events. The more that New Americans in Fargo take initiative, the better representation there will be for them when shaping the city, Arday said.
“You want change, guess what, you better get your hands dirty and get in there and make the change. Because no one’s going to do it for you,” he said.
“That is not a secret, but that is the way you make it in any culture – regardless of the color of your skin,” he continued. “You have to step out, and you have to give back to where you are. Because that’s how you will count.”
Photos courtesy of Arday Ardayfio.