A new start(up): Chimdi Chekwa
A new start(up): Chimdi Chekwa
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Throughout his career as a professional football player and now as an entrepreneur, Chimdi Chekwa’s accounting degree from Fisher College of Business has been there for him all along.
A cornerback at Ohio State from 2006-2010, Chekwa was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2011, and he later spent time with the Miami Dolphins. Looking back at his career, Chekwa said his degree helped him make smart financial decisions.
“Fisher gave me the terminology to understand business,” he said. “I could read financial statements; I could determine what was a good deal and what wasn’t.”
And like other students studying business, his experience transcended the classroom.
A self-described introvert as a student, Chekwa (BSBA ’11) benefitted from collaborating with others on projects, and he learned how to speak up in class — leadership skills that he carried with him into football.
“That helped me on the field, just being comfortable enough to stand up and tell people what I feel — and also to encourage others to speak their minds about what they’re seeing out there and what they think is happening,” he said.
After hanging up his jersey in 2017, he returned to Columbus and co-founded the Pit BBQ Grille, a food truck and catering service, with partners D’Andre Martin, Mike Johnson and former Ohio State teammate Bryant Browning (BSBA ’10). Once again, he called upon his business background to help ease the transition from professional player to entrepreneur.
“The NFL gives you many opportunities, but that career is not for long,” he said. “So having that baseline from Fisher gave me the confidence to transition to anything else within business.”
“Going to college in Columbus, playing ball and getting my education here was a big growing-up period for me, so it kind of feels like home,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here; it’s a great city. It’s a growing city, but it still kind of feels like a small town and I enjoy that.”
Chekwa remains engaged with Fisher in a number of ways, which connects with his strong belief in community.
“I think community helps build us up as individuals and it helps us build up others,” he said. “Fisher is a great community to be a part of in terms of the amazing educational opportunities it provides and all the ways alumni can connect with each other and current students. Remaining connected is a good opportunity for me to grow.”
Chekwa has participated in the Accounting Careers Awareness Program (ACAP-Ohio) at Fisher. The program equips minority high school students throughout the state with experiences to help them learn about leadership and careers in business.
Chekwa has shared his journey as a professional athlete and as an entrepreneur with ACAP participants. This past April, Chekwa also delivered the keynote at Project THRIVE’s spring reception. Project THRIVE is a comprehensive program designed to create a community of minority and underrepresented Accounting and MIS students that is equipped to succeed at Fisher and beyond.
As an undergraduate student not much older than the ACAP students he now speaks to, Chekwa remembers his first accounting course — Accounting I taught by Senior Lecturer Marc Smith. At the time, he had switched his major from biology to accounting but remained unsure of his decision.
“I connected with that class more than any other class outside of economics,” Chekwa said. “It seemed so natural to me. So from there, I was all in on accounting. That changed my trajectory moving forward.”
The future looks bright for the entrepreneur. He is opening a second location for the Pit BBQ Grille, and he is dipping his toes into the real estate market.
“Hopefully I can develop homes in a price range that a lot of young entrepreneurs are able to purchase, and I can ride that wave as the market continues to grow,” he said.
When will this third business venture launch?
“Coming soon,” Chekwa said with a smile.
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Fisher is a great community to be a part of in terms of the amazing educational opportunities it provides and all the ways alumni can connect with each other and current students. Remaining connected is a good opportunity for me to grow.
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