"I was raised to be driven."
That's what Mana Ionescu told me when I asked her how being an immigrant contributed to her entrepreneurial success.
According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, immigrants to the U.S. start businesses at a rate of 62 per 10,000 people, compared with a rate of 28 per 10,000 native-born Americans. More than half of foreign-born founders came to the US to study.
Ionescu is from Romania and started Lightspan Digital after a stint as a marketer for a non-profit.
"The results were fantastic," she said, "I documented the process and decided it could be used to help more businesses. So, I left my corporate job and started my own business."
USSR-born Stella Fayman was inspired to launch Fee Fighters by her father, a doctor who had to retrain upon entry to the US. His tenacity inspired her to pursue her ambitions. "I don't take no for an answer and work really hard to achieve my goals. I'm much more aggressive than my American friends. This and the extreme thriftiness that immigrants have, make for a mean startup."
Shonali Burke moved to the US from India and worked for major PR agencies before launching Shonali Burke Consulting. "I'm used to dealing with people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, and can put myself in their shoes," she observes.
Ella Zibitsker, a Russian immigrant and electrical engineer who founded Computer Systems Institute to provide computer skills training for businesses later switched to meet the needs of inner-city and immigrant students. Today the school has six campuses offering eight-month career training programs in computer technology, healthcare and business administration as well as English-as-a-Second-Language classes.
The same themes emerged from these ambitious entrepreneurs born in other countries. Not taking "no" for an answer. Having go get-'em attitudes. Wasting neither time nor money. Their advice?
1. Do the numbers before you start. "Even if you're not going to write a full-fledged business plan, you have to know how much money you need to make (usually different from what you'd want to make). If you don't have some kind of roadmap regarding how you're going to bring in income, your business is just a hobby." (Shonali)
2. Gender doesn't matter. "One of the biggest lesson for me has been that it's not about gender. Some of my business' biggest supporters have been entrepreneurial men. In this city everybody helps everybody more than anywhere else I've lived. So don't be afraid to ask for help regardless of gender." (Ionescu)
3. Don't try to be everything to everyone. "Identify what you're really good at and, equally important, what you want to do. That's the kind of business you should go after, not the 'everyone else is doing it, I may as well too' kind." (Shonali)
4. Just do it. "Don't think about it. Just get out there and make it happen. Too many people waste opportunities because they are afraid. Life is short and when you identify an opportunity to advance your life...take it, or someone else will." (Stella)
5. Match value and price. "If you know what you have to offer is valuable, don't go with the low price. Go with the right price." (Mana)
Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. Having built two successful companies, she launched The Founding Moms to connect mom entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, traveling to small towns, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.