entrepreneurship

Immigrant Hustle: 100 Success Stories from American Entrepreneurs Born Offshore — Kenneth Fomunung

This article originally appeared on Medium and was written by Amine Rahal.

What’s your name, company name, and title?

Kenneth Fomunung, Founder and CEO, Enrich My Brand.

Which country did you emigrate from?

Cameroon

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you arrived?

Well, I had culture shock coming from a small, third world country to the vast United States with its variety of at once integrated and segregated cultures. I had to adjust in many ways, none more initially challenging than being understood by my new peers in school due to a then heavy accent.

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Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur? (c.f. What triggered you?).

Two words: my parents. Both my parents but particularly my mother, have always had a knack for entrepreneurship — growing up, I would witness her pursue one venture after another even while maintaining gainful employment. I suppose you could say I inherited that same zeal for business. However, beyond that parental influence, I have come to believe in the pursuit of happiness as only time and financial freedom can deliver us, hence my decision to become a successful entrepreneur in my own right. Most importantly, I want to make more than just a living, I want to make a difference, and being an entrepreneur is one great way to accomplish that longstanding personal goal.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your business?

Where do I begin — uncertainty, fear, and insecurity, to name a few? I had no clients, no significant savings, no loan, no line of credit, and no investors. I would say that the most difficult thing I faced was the prospect of succumbing to my fears and giving up before I even started in earnest. I took a leap of faith and quit my job to start my business. My business plan would come the following day.

Why do you think you have been successful?

Beyond my faith, I would attribute my success to a high emotional quotient or intelligence and willingness to be a student of life so to speak. I am constantly learning to hone my craft, to polish my skills, and to grow personally and professionally. Oftentimes, people focus on Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and think that the smartest people undoubtedly succeed in business. But, as for me, it’s been my ability to network and build mutually beneficial relationships that have allowed me to get off to a fast start in business. I’ve been able to connect with people almost effortlessly and show them that I am genuine, will go to bat for them, will remain loyal during times of adversity, and go above and beyond to meet their needs. I believe it is for this reason my former employer agreed to become my first client.

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What advice do you have for newly arrived immigrants that want to pursue the path of entrepreneurship?

Identify your passion because your purpose in life is often found where your passion lies. Moreover, if you are passion-driven in business, you’ll love what you do, and you’ll be good at it too. I believe that in the United States — the veritable land of opportunity — if you do what you do well enough for long enough, you will be rewarded handsomely in due time, all things being equal.

Rise and Grind: Building a Digital Marketing Agency from Scratch

Rise and Grind: Building a Digital Marketing Agency from Scratch

So how do you build a digital agency from scratch? Find out what it takes in our new blog article! 

Be Your Own Boss: The Reality

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“Be your own boss.” Ah, that phrase is too often casually thrown around. To many people, that sure sounds like living the dream; having a whole lot of fun doing what you love without having to answer to anyone else is surely a goal we should all be striving to achieve, right? Wrong. Not if we’re not wired for the daily grind that ensues or we don't possess the necessary work ethic to survive the invariable challenges, especially in the startup phase of our business. The reality for most self-employed people who consider themselves their own boss is far from the utopian perception those four words appear to convey. As of matter of fact, most people who go that route end up failing and inevitably settle for finding a new boss.

Starting a company of your own is arguably one of the most difficult things you can do. It is daunting and once you do become your own so-called boss, the actual experience can be maddening. The reality is, the moment you choose to forfeit employment for entrepreneurship, you immediately go from comfort to discomfort, security to insecurity, and certainty to uncertainty. Your pay is no longer guaranteed as you are neither salaried nor hourly, paid bi-monthly or monthly. On the contrary, you work round the clock, are always open for business, and always stressed about your business. Even if you have seed funding or a business loan to start, you are still likely to face myriad challenges along the journey. Moreover, the risks are magnified when they are all yours to bear, and the sleepless nights begin since profits and losses are yours and only yours to contend with. 

In this work environment, you can no longer afford to go through the motions, to stretch every minute of that 30-minute or hour-long lunch break, to watch the clock tick until 5 pm so you can go home. No, as your own boss, you are always in motion, you don’t know what a lunch break is, your time literally becomes your money, and you never truly get to go home. Regardless of the nature of your business, it goes without saying that you will need to acquire (paying) customers or clients to stay afloat, generate revenues, capture your ROI per the timeline set in your business plan, and enter a profitable phase, let alone growth phase. Just how much work do you think that takes for one man or woman? Eight hours a day? Please...

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Let’s be clear, the merits of being your own boss are well documented and its reward is a fulfilling lifestyle worth pursuing. However, if you attempt to become an entrepreneur while holding on to an employee mindset, you will fail, almost immediately. With such an ordinary work ethic, you are unlikely to attain the independence or the time and financial freedom often associated with being your own boss. One of the most popular definitions of entrepreneurship I hear thrown around today is, “Entrepreneurship is doing what others are unwilling to do for a while so that you can afford to live how others can’t for the rest of your life.” 

Well, there’s no time like the present; if you do aspire to be able to live how others can’t tomorrow, you’d better be able to work like others don’t today, and every day until that tomorrow dawns. And even when that day comes when you can finally afford to live and work freely and independently of any boss because your business is growing and thriving and you’ve achieved your financial goals, the grind doesn’t stop because the uncertainties in the marketplace persist as does your competition. As a matter of fact, it is then you will need even more mettle and a near-obsessive work ethic because the only thing harder than becoming successful is staying successful. Godspeed. 

Yours truly,

Kenny, Chief Wordsmith