Lessons on Overcoming Obstacles From a Pair of Immigrant Entrepreneurs
New cultures allow us to view the world of business from a fresh perspective, and that can become a major competitive advantage. Entrepreneurs are more effective when we think globally, and learning from and collaborating with immigrant entrepreneurs helps. I had a chance to interview two immigrants to get their perspective on entrepreneurship in the United States. Here's what I learned:
Ryan Lockhart, founding partner of group46.
Ryan, from Australia, had not planned to remain in the United States. He shared, “I had originally come over to the United States and only planned to stay for 12 months before moving on to Europe. Though shortly into my time here fate intervened and I married the girl next door.”
Now, he is a founding partner and sales and development executive at group46. The company offers digital marketing and branding services to clients. He did not have any experience in the industry. He decided to take a risk and learn the skills necessary to get started. He believes that being from a different country gives him a different perspective that is helpful to clients.
“It was only through hard work that I’ve made it to where I am today,” Ryan said.
Entrepreneurs share similar goals and experiences, no matter where they’re from. “As an entrepreneur, I do whatever it takes to raise not only my game but also that of my client's. I love working with people who inspire me to raise my game and take it to the next level and being an entrepreneur allows me to do that,” Ryan said.
His goal is to make changes in the lives of his clients and their companies.
In the early stages Ryan’s instructions to his team sometimes got lost in translation. For example, when he would make a reference to Mickey Mouse, he meant to convey a term of endearment. He soon learned from his team, that to refer to something as Mickey Mouse, was to suggest that it was silly. At the same time, Ryan has found that because of his accent people tend to listen a little more to what he has to say because it is different and interesting to listen to.
Building a team and a collaborative work environment is just what Ryan needed to help navigate the industry, but it was tough to relinquish control. He shared, “I’ve learned that through our growth I need to allow my team to flourish in their perspective areas of expertise and trust that they believe in our vision.”
He has also had to manage cultural behavior patterns. He often appears too relaxed to his team. “Because I am an Aussie, I have a laid-back personality but I also have an extremely serious business belief system and balancing these two aspects can be a challenge,” Ryan shared.
Anca Toderic, co-founder of Huckle & Goose.
Anca started her meal-planning business with her sister-in-law, Christine, to encourage people to support local farmers. Subscribers can get a one-week menu and shopping list based on heirloom fruits and vegetables found at farmers' markets.
“I travel every year to Romania, where I’m from, and foods taste better. Cooking there seemed less hectic and more about a natural rhythm, cooking with seasonal ingredients and preserving summer's bounty for the winter. Once I began cooking with things grown locally and in season, I discovered a whole new appreciation of food and how it nourishes so much more than our bodies,” said Anca.
Anca’s parents, and their immigrant experience, toughened her up for business. She explained that her dad has a “plow through” personality. He had to take a medical exam In the U.S., so he taught himself English though a dictionary. Her mom taught herself English through watching soap operas. There was no job beneath her mom, who worked odd jobs while her husband attended medical school. Anca grew up with the sense that you don’t quit, and there are no excuses.
“To come with your family, and not know the language and culture is hard. You’re literally risking everything coming to a completely different culture, ” explained Anca. She carries a hard work ethic into her business, working through difficulty and working hard for every subscriber.
Anca recommends entrepreneurship as a choice to immigrants looking to succeed in America. She explains, “Nowhere else can you come with an idea and roll up your sleeves and make it happen. We love the underdog here; we love to hear about the next rags-to-riches story; we root for creativity. America is what it is today because immigrants have given their all to make it.”
Ryan and Anca share a common goal of making a difference, and they leverage their experiences as immigrants to help them. They don’t view it as a hindrance, and like all of us entrepreneurs, they believe that all things are possible.