I’m proud to be the child of immigrant parents. I’m first-generation American from the Congo. Coming from extreme poverty, my parents dove into their studies to earn college scholarships to come to the U.S. in the 70s. They knew very little English and didn’t know each other when they arrived. Through hard work, taking any and all paths to find success and faith that they’d make it, they gave my family a wonderful life.
Growing up as a first-gen kid is a unique experience that played an integral part in the way I approach entrepreneurship — I’m currently building a business called The Mentor Method, which connects millennial women to mentors. While the path to immigration and entrepreneurship are very different, I notice similarities between their mindset of doing everything for the American dream and being an entrepreneur. Here are the top overlaps I’ve come to recognize.
The “no going back” mentality
When my parents decided to come to the U.S., they knew it was their shot at a better life. I can imagine they were scared to leave their families and unsure of what to expect once their plane landed on the other side of the world. But they did it anyway. Why? Because it had to be done.
In entrepreneurship, you face a lot of challenges that can seem daunting, scary or overwhelming. In seeing my parents work three jobs and go to night school for graduate degrees, I learned that you do what you have to in order to reach your goals. Yes, you can be scared and tired, but you roll up your sleeves and get things done anyway. Whether it’s staying up until 3 a.m. working on your latest pitch deck or the unexpected meeting with a potential investor, entrepreneurship is full of challenging moments that you have to deal with and get through in order to reach success.
Don’t dwell on the negative
In D.C., we’re often so busy focusing on the next step, the next milestone, the next round of funding, that we forget to take a moment and celebrate the accomplishments that brought us to where we are in our businesses. Coming from a third-world village where you are grateful to have a meal, my parents could have easily developed a negative mindset and lost hope. Instead, they practiced gratitude for what they had and strategized how to get out of their situation.
There are so many setbacks that happen in the entrepreneur’s journey. Being caught up in negativity can be soul-crushing. Focusing your mind on the things you have to be grateful for, like your latest paying customers or finding a good intern, gives you momentum to keep moving forward while you build a game plan to tackle your next hurdle.
Pay it forward
For as long as I can remember, my family’s paid it forward by hosting relatives and friends from other countries until they got on their feet as a way to open opportunities for others in need. Their generosity led to extended family earning citizenships, bringing their own families to the U.S. and becoming doctors at top U.S. hospitals.
It’s important in the startup community to also pay it forward, sharing advice and resources with others to help build each other and support the up and comers the way you wanted help in the early days of your startup. Your business gets stronger through building your communities of allies for partnerships, connections and resources. This community, much like communities my parents fostered, rely on each other for support and pay dividends throughout for a long time to come.-30-