Comment from MyComeUp.com: How I set up my first international business in South Asia
I lost my dad at the age of nine, so had no father figure during some of the most important years of my life, and I never received a university degree – however I have always been highly driven, with a thirst to succeed. My mum did a fantastic job raising me as a single parent and instilled an exceptional work ethic in me.
As a teenager I dropped out of college and secured a job finding rental opportunities and generating clients for a real estate agent. While working as an intern, I learnt of an opportunity that involved virtually scouting nurses in the Philippines to work in the UK. So, at the age of 19, I had numerous businesses – one of which was a thriving international business based in the Philippines.
However, setting up this business did come with some struggles, especially personal ones. When starting out, I used a fake photo and used my middle name instead of my last name as I was worried that people would judge me more harshly if they knew I was a young black man; I didn’t want to be held back or judged negatively. Nevertheless, this wasn’t going to work forever and I knew that eventually clients would want to meet me either via skype or face-to-face. So, although anxious, I chose to send a client a smart photo of me at SkyBar in LA and nervously clicked send. I waited, worried about their response; a few minutes later, they replied positively and didn’t seemed fazed by my skin colour or age.
Eventually, I ended up flying out to the Philippines and was warmly welcomed by people holding signs with my name on and by people who were extremely impressed with the work I had been doing.
Whilst I was running this business, I realised I was perhaps lacking skills that I would have gained had I completed higher education. To overcome this obstacle, I began reading self-development books. These books helped me build up more confidence and knowledge and I started sharing tips to an online community.
When setting up a business, there are certain elements to consider – self-acceptance is one of these. It works in two ways; physical and psychological. I allowed the psychological side of me believe that due to my race and age, I wouldn’t be good enough and people would stop doing business with me. However, my skin colour and credentials did not matter; my personal belief in myself nearly prevented me from following my dreams and succeeding. In the end people actually only care about how well you do the job and what you can deliver. Be reliable, consistent and committed and you will succeed.
Other personal elements to consider when wanting to start up a business include:
Setting goals – where do you want to be in five years? Who do you want to be? Don’t be scared of setting wild goals!
Self-belief is essential – believing in yourself will enable people around you to motivate and believe in you too.
Accepting failure – realising that failure is only failure when the word is ascribed to a situation. Some of the greatest changes come from ‘failing’ – everything in life is a lesson. Learn from your mistakes and then let them go.
Although working in the Philippines was an exciting time, it was very isolating and I soon realised there were people in the same boat as me who could use guidance. This realisation started up my most recent and worldwide business – mycomeup.com. The blog still remains one of the most popular elements of this site.
For anyone wanting to start a business, the best advice I can give is to just go for it. Everything in life has challenges; I found out that all the obstacles I faced were worth it, as indeed further obstacles will be in the future. It’s all about perspective.
Leonard Sekyonda is the CEO and founder of global entrepreneurial networking community MyComeUp.com. Having launched in 2015, the platform now has more than 125,000 active users from around the world and aims to reach 1 billion users in five years. For more information, visit www.mycomeup.com.