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Competing in the Business Arena
K. Adisa Johnson, Eller MBA ’14

By Liz Warren-Pederson


Adisa Johnson was born and raised in Phoenix, but attended the University of Missouri on a full football scholarship. “Football for sure taught me how to overcome tough situations and train mentally and physically for competition,” he said. “It taught me about studying and dissecting the competition, looking at strengths, breaking down weaknesses, and using that to my advantage.”

He majored in hotel and restaurant management, and after graduation, “I turned my love for competition to the business arena.”

Johnson had hopes of owning his own business in the southwest, an entrepreneurial spirit he said comes from his father. “He always had something on the side besides the job that paid the bills,” he explained. “He was a videographer, and that work funded vacations and Christmas. It gave him the freedom to do things.”

After graduation, Johnson returned to the Valley and opened a Cousins Subs franchise. “I did that for two and a half years,” he said. “I didn’t think I would go into business again by myself, but in 2012 or ‘13, I started looking at MBAs that are geared towards innovators. By that point, I had realized I needed to set myself apart.”

The process of exploring MBA programs sparked a new venture idea. As he entered the Eller Executive MBA program, he also focused on launching Dissertation Network, a web-based platform that assists individuals from all social and economic backgrounds with funding solutions for tuition.

“I formed it to help others,” he said. “This project is about closing the financial gap and being a place where academics and professionals connect.” In addition to offering educational crowd funding,Dissertationetwork.com pulls in relevant TED talk content and offers a career search powered by Indeed.com.

“My aspirations are to take this platform to users who don’t know about resources like this,” he said. “I talk to people from challenged socio-economic backgrounds who have never heard of TED talks, who don’t know about career searches.” Johnson has immersed himself in the Arizona Board of Regents 20/20 vision for expanding access to higher education across the state. “The demographics they want to reach are going to face challenges getting into higher education,” he said. “I want to help support their education.”

Johnson credits the Eller Executive MBA program with helping him prepare to launch Dissertationetwork.com. “I’ve been through five modules so far and am able to apply what I’m learning in real time to Dissertation Network,” he said. “It’s everything from mission and vision, strategy and pricing, to branding. I’ve encountered many people who haven’t earned an MBA and aspire to be CEOs or COOs – I’m just blown away that they think they could do that without this knowledge.”

Top image courtesy Adisa Johnson.