America has always been a desired destination for people around the world looking for new opportunities. According to a recent study conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have started 55 percent of America’s billion-dollar startup companies and are leaders in more than 80 percent of these companies.
Immigrant entrepreneurs continue to be vital to America’s growing economy. Growing up in Vietnam, I got my start working in my family’s small tailor shop. By the time I was 10, I began designing and sewing my own clothes, all while dreaming of coming to America to become a fashion designer.
Today, I’m the founder and CEO of the successful luxury menswear company, Buttercloth. How did I get here? Well, it took a little bit of luck, a whole lot of determination, and the belief that the sky was the limit.
I believe that the American Dream of entrepreneurship is achievable for everyone, not just those born in America. Here are my key points of advice to any immigrant entrepreneurs who desire the American Dream.
Develop an insatiable hunger for success
All entrepreneurs must possess a drive to succeed deep within. However, I believe that when you move to a brand-new country, you are even more well equipped to work hard and persevere. Today, the culture surrounding immigrants has undoubtedly changed, but our determination to succeed has not.
Entrepreneurs who want to thrive in America should be wholly committed to their idea and their company’s mission. Once I came up with the idea for Buttercloth, I was all in. I quit my six-figure salaried job, sold my house, and cashed out my 401K, sacrificing it all because I believed both in myself and in my business plan wholeheartedly.
Solve a problem using your unique perspective
If you want to stay in business for the long haul, you must launch something that really matters to you and that you’re passionate about.
With Buttercloth, I always hated how stiff and scratchy men’s dress shirts felt. I’d often wear a T-shirt to the office and change into a dress shirt just for meetings. I thought to myself, “There has to be a better solution; something that combines comfort and professional style,” and thus, Buttercloth was born.
Look at your own world view and see how you can make the world a better place through problem solving.
Lean on your support system
No one person can do it alone. Entrepreneurs should lean on their support systems in order to get their businesses off the ground. However, as an immigrant in a new country, it can be hard to find those people.
I relied on my parents, who have been with me on this journey since we arrived in America. They helped me pack shirts in our garage, and they still come into the office every week and make lunch for the team! I started the business at home and on Facebook. My family were my first employees, and some had to juggle their full-time jobs with helping ship out inventory to customers. The home garage became the warehouse, and one of the rooms transformed into a center for operations.
Today, I look back and often laugh at what we went through at the start. You can’t succeed in business without leaning on others for support.
Family isn’t the only kind of support system you can leverage when starting up your business, either. Connect with other immigrant entrepreneurs and learn from each other through networking.
For example, Robert Herjavec, our investor from Shark Tank, identified with my story as a fellow immigrant. Like me, Robert came here from another country, and with hard work and persistence, he has built an amazing portfolio. Today, I am proud to call him my partner, and I continue to be inspired by him every day.
Ultimately, nothing about entrepreneurship is easy, no matter where you were born or where you live. Whether there are language barriers, cultural misconceptions or other external factors, the truly successful entrepreneurs have stopped at nothing to pursue their dreams. With a drive for success, a unique perspective, and a support system to help you along the way, the American Dream is possible for everyone.