Featured in Forbes and Time Magazine before the age of 28, Pamela Bardhi ’13 had achieved success in both the restaurant business and in real estate development. But she knew she had to do more. “I felt this little tap on my shoulder that said, ‘You are doing great for yourself. Now, what are you doing for the world?’” she recalled at the closing event of the fourth annual Alumnae Summit. 

This sentiment is what drove Bardhi to add life coach and podcast host to her impressive resume. Each week on her podcast, The Underdog Show, Bardhi interviews people from all walks of life who share stories of who they are, where they’ve been and where they are going. “My family started as the underdogs here in the U.S. Then, I took that on and built on it in the real estate space. Now, my whole goal is to ignite the underdog in everybody.”

In a conversation with marketing major Britney Savage ’23 at the Alumnae Summit event, Bardhi talked about her parents’ influence, a Stonehill professor who changed her life, owning two businesses by the time she graduated, and why she loves hearing other people’s stories. (She also shared how she can always tell someone is a Stonehill alum!)

Hustle and Struggles

Born in Tirana, Albania, Bardhi moved with her family to Rome, Italy, to escape communism. Her family then moved to the U.S. when Bardhi was 5 years old. “I used to see my dad working three jobs and my mom trying to work from home doing whatever she could while taking care of my brother and me,” Bardhi recalled of growing up. Bardhi’s first introduction to the restaurant business was when her dad bought a pizza place in Boston when she was 10. “My parents have been my inspiration, hands down, my whole life because I saw the hustle and the struggles throughout the process.” 

What’s Green?

Another person who has been an inspiration to Bardhi was in the audience at the event—Emeritus Assistant Professor of Healthcare Administration Warren Dahlin. During one of Dahlin’s courses, Bardhi recounted, he sent the class out on a tour and asked them to take note of anything that was red. When the class came back, he asked, “Ok, good, now tell me what was green.” That assignment has stayed with Bardhi all these years later. “He opened me up to this alternate way of thinking, right here on this campus,” she said.

Room for Dessert

When a jeweler moved out of her dad’s commercial building, Bardhi, a senior at Stonehill at the time, proposed an idea. I thought I would open a dessert restaurant, Ria Cafe, because that is true to my core and culture.” Her dad said he'd consider it if she developed a business plan, which she did during her senior year. Meanwhile, another entrepreneur in the events industry, for whom Bardhi had interned, asked her to become a partner in a restaurant in the Esplanade. “Both businesses launched as soon as I graduated,” Bardhi noted.

"[Professor Dahlin] opened me up to this alternate way of thinking, right here on this campus," said Bardhi with Dahlin at the event. 

"The thing about Stonehill is it's such a magical place. I can spot a Stonehill alum out of nowhere...," Bardhi told Britney Savage ’23, who facilitated the conversation. 

Doing Flips

Working long hours at her businesses, she heard some of her restaurant patrons talking about real estate development and realized that she had to diversify her revenue streams. Bardhi became interested in flipping houses and set out to learn everything she could about the process. She flipped her first house in 2014. “Eventually, I got my construction license, so I was one of the youngest females to get the unrestricted construction supervisor license in the State of Massachusetts.” Of learning a new trade, Bardhi recalled, “I remember having my back up against the wall so many times because there were so many things that I didn't know. What I knew was the people that I could count on." 

Telling a Story

“When I told my dad that I wanted to open my own business, he said to me, ‘You have to have a big heart. You have to help,” recalled Bardhi. Life coaching allows her to do just that. Streamed in more than 65 countries, Bardhi’s podcast has been a springboard to other opportunities to connect with people. “The podcast is what has led me to public speaking and coaching because I realized how much I love [people and their] stories. I want to showcase them; I want to help them grow. I want to see people go to the next level.” 

Spotting a Stonehill Alum

Wrapping up the event, Bardhi reflected on Stonehill. “The thing about Stonehill is it's such a magical place. I can spot a Stonehill alum out of nowhere. When I [talk to someone I just met], I’m like, ‘Did you go to Stonehill?’ There's this energy about this campus—it's extremely special, and it draws the greatest individuals who are willing to give you everything they’ve got.”

This Alumnae Summit special event was sponsored by the Alumni Council Career Services Committee. 

Photos by Robert Perachio.