Meet Baffour Tontoh | From Ghana to the Berkshires to earn an MBA
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PITTSFIELD — Baffour Tontoh already has the name, investors and a business plan for the intercity bus company he wants to start back home in Ghana. Roots of that enterprise – Impulse Transportation – will be in Pittsfield, where he has lived for the last six years.
“I came here for a reason,” Tontoh says, “and when that is accomplished I will go back home. Home sweet home.”
After graduating from the University of Ghana, he worked in the financial services industry in his home country and in Manchester, England. The reason he came to the United States was to get a master’s degree in business and to gain business experience.
“My plan was to go to Harvard,” he says in his Fenn Street apartment. “But then I realized that even with good grades it is so expensive that I could only do that on full scholarship. And that was hard to get.
“But I had a cousin who used to live in Pittsfield and she told me about the MBA program at MCLA. I went to visit there, talked to the admissions people and looked around to make sure I loved it.”
He became a student at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, graduating in 2015. He is now a management trainee at Enterprise car rentals on East Street.
“I’ve always thought like an entrepreneur,” says Tontoh, who is 40. “I was 13 years old and was in church looking around at all the other kids and I came up with the idea of a church club where we would have music and food and drinks.”
He grew up in a middle class neighborhood of Ghana’s capital city Accra. His father worked for the Ministry of Agriculture.
“It was a decent area, not a bad area,” he says. “We had the culture where you could go to everybody’s house, eat together, look out for each other’s kids together. It was a beautiful community.”
He talks about “discipline and respect” being instilled in children in his African country from a young age.
“The culture is a little bit different than here,” he says.
“When somebody is older than you, you give that person all the due respect,” Tontoh explains. “For instance, if you sit in a bus and an elderly person comes in and is standing, it is your duty to get up. That’s how we were trained as kids.”
In Pittsfield, he worked his way through college.
He worked with recovering clients at the Brien Center, which provides mental health and substance abuse services. He started an online business selling shoes, “because I love shoes.” And he started a cleaning business, BKT Services, named for his initials (his middle name is Konadu).
He says he likes Pittsfield and values what he learned at MCLA and Enterprise. But he makes no secret of his longing to return home.
“My dream is to take everything that I’ve learned here and take it back to Ghana and make an impact on the society that I grew up in.”
To Tontoh, making an impact means more than just making a success of the Impulse bus company he has his designs on. He wants to set an example.
“I want to go to colleges and high schools and give some sort of speech,” he says. “Growing up in Ghana everybody wants to go to America. And I realize, fine, it is good to do that. But I also want people to know that all is not so green here as they say it is.
“Back home, if you have this positive mentality, you can also make it,” he continues. “I’m not the first person to return; many people do. You learn something somewhere else and then you bring it back to where they don’t have that thing. That is how we can also develop and then compete with the developed countries.”
Tontoh sounds determined when he says he is looking to leave Pittsfield for Ghana next year.
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