The world today is constantly developing through efforts made by human beings every single day, working to make our lives better. Technology is moving very fast, and is playing a big role in the development of this world, but without business nothing is going to happen. Whatever you call it, business or small business is key for the success of our communities.
In issue 18 of Karibu News, we are talking about business. It’s a great opportunity for me, as the founder of the paper to talk about this interesting topic, especially as an immigrant who came to the USA having no idea how to start a business here. It’s very difficult to think about starting a new business in a new country; most of the immigrants or refugees coming in the area prefer to start with small jobs.
On my side, when I arrived in Buffalo three years ago, everything was hard and I never thought that I could start a business. As an experienced journalist from my home country, I couldn’t imagine that I could because starting business in the states is a little bit different from starting a business in my country: Rwanda.
I had to learn everything: how to speak English, the culture, customs, values, the community, and how to get connected with the community. The first question I asked myself before starting Karibu News was, “as a refugee, do I have a right to start a business?” Another important thing you may know, is that I was a journalist running my own newspaper in my country, but I wasn’t a business person. This was challenging for me, and I really appreciate the Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) and all the people who helped open my eyes and open the door for me to start this newspaper.
Normally when you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to think about the “new great idea,” coming up with a solution and having the ability to see what other people cannot see. For me, the new thing was to start a unique “Multilingual and Multicultural paper” to be a tool of communication for New Americans and the locals. This was a great idea, as today Karibu News is a unique paper publishing in different languages.
The second thing you may think of as an entrepreneur is the capital or money to invest in. This is the most complicated for immigrants and refugees. If you want start business, at this point you have to be careful, as you won’t imagine how many challenges you will face. Some of the entrepreneurs will think that they will profit very soon, but it won’t happen as you may think. It reminds me of a quote from Rich Dad who said “Starting a business is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In mid air, the Entrepreneur begins building a parachute and hopes it opens before hitting the ground”. I will say that starting a business is sometimes a risk, but if you are a great conductor of this business you will manage all of these unexpected challenges.
As an immigrants or a refugee, it is not easy to make people understand that you are trustworthy and able to make this happen especially because you are building your first business. For me I will say that as an immigrant, it costs more energy to run a business, at least three times more than a native; to get the right connections and right people to work with is challenging.
I think that most people would like to start a business, make money, and be successful. Of course you will make money by finding “good customers.” Don’t be surprised if you are wrong when you think that your friends and people you know will be your first customers! Most of the time this won’t happen, but at the end, you find out that people you never thought would, are coming to buy your products.
As an entrepreneur, I faced people discouraging me for different reasons. Don’t be scared and don’t give up, there will always be people who are ready to help you succeed. Doing business today is very competitive, and most of the entrepreneurs think that competition is a plague but when you start, try to see competition as a good challenge. Today there is different ways to sell products, if you want start your business be prepared and don’t be shy. Whoever you are – refugee, immigrant or native – challenges and problems will never stop coming to you even if you are successful. I do like a quote from Jack Welch that says: “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete”.