From hungry nights in Nigeria to building a business — with the help of a UW certificate scholarship
Born and raised in Nigeria, educated in Nigeria, Germany and British Columbia, and a business owner in Seattle, Tolulope Daramola has lived a far-flung, fascinating life.
After starting his own environmental construction company, ForestClouds (now Daramola, Inc.), in 2016, Tolulope saw early success with smaller local projects: enhancing Bird Island’s shoreline and wetland mitigation in Renton, repairing Kent’s Meridian Valley Creek and planting trees and shrubs as part of the Highland Park playground renovation in Seattle.
But when his company landed its first million-dollar job, Tolulope hesitated. Despite numerous successful smaller projects, Tolulope initially felt that a one-million dollar job was too daunting.
“I thought, ‘Oh I can’t do that, no,’” he said. “But later I asked myself, ‘Why not? After all, this is America.’”
REMEMBERING HIS ROOTS
Tolulope has always valued education, a trait ingrained in him as a child in Nigeria.
“I was raised by a single mom, along with my three other siblings, and it was pretty tough growing up back home,” he said. “But one thing that my mom always instilled in me and my siblings is that with education you can do anything — you can go anywhere. And that stuck with me."
When Tolulope felt overwhelmed by the larger scope of the projects at work, he knew he needed to add to his skillset.
“I have the technical background that I need, I have the equipment and dedicated personnel, but I’m just scared because of the figures behind the project,” he said. “This is the main reason why I decided I needed to get a little more education in project management.”
So Tolulope applied for a scholarship to enroll in the UW Certificate in Project Management, and he never looked back — and never balked at a million-dollar job again.
Tolulope cited many technical skills that he accrued in his certificate program, but his biggest takeaway was the reassurance that he wasn’t the only one who could get overwhelmed by a large project.
“It’s normal to feel like, ‘Maybe I cannot do this thing,’ but by the time you take that step to get a little more education and hear from other people, and listen to their stories, it helps you to understand that you are not alone,” he said. “That made me feel really good and even built confidence in myself that, you know what? It’s normal to feel that way.”
Tolulope now had the aplomb to take a big professional step: renaming and rebranding his company with his last name — a change that reflected both his newfound self-assurance and Daramola, Inc.’s shift toward larger, more complex projects.
“We now have the confidence to take on bigger projects,” he said. “And the program helped me to build that level of confidence and even make me feel like, ‘You know what? Yeah, I can put my name into my work with confidence now because I know that we can handle it.’”
Tolulope didn’t hesitate to attribute the reason for much of his company’s success to the Certificate in Project Management.
“For me, the program was a life-changer,” he said. “It changed my life because now I have the confidence to do anything.”
PAYING IT FORWARD
Tolulope was part of the inaugural class that received help from the UW Certificate Scholarship Fund, which awarded 10 income-based scholarships in 2017. That number increased to 12 in 2018, giving students in need an opportunity to boost their potential.
Though he feels somewhat sheepish about earning the scholarship now that Daramola, Inc. is thriving, at the time Tolulope was investing every penny he earned back into his young business. He also said that he found it difficult to secure a credit line for his business, as an immigrant with little-to-no financial history in the United States.
“When I was looking into the program, I knew at that time that I did not have the resources,” he said. “Every profit that was coming into the business I was putting back into the company. I wouldn’t have been able to do the program at that time if it wasn’t because of the scholarship.”
Tolulope values his experience in the Certificate in Project Management — so much so that he wants to use Daramola, Inc.’s success to help support future certificate students who could use some financial help.
“The funders, the people who make this possible for someone like myself, they sow a seed,” he said, “and that seed is going to grow and become a tree, and the tree’s going to bear fruit, and that fruit is going to also give back and sow seeds also into other people’s lives. And that is what I want to do as well. I’m trying to find a way now to give back to the program.”
You can help open the door to opportunity for other students like Tolulope.