Take risks and fail forward. Risk is part of success. I have failed over 71 times when trying to start businesses. I have got into debt and paid them off on my way to where I am today. Without failures, there is no success. The road to success is paved with several failed attempts. Keep failing forward, learn as you fail, and you will eventually master the art of success.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Afolabi Oyerokun.
Afolabi Oyerokun (Mr. Trillion) is Co-Founder of Honu Worldwide, a global product sourcing and logistics company with offices in the U.S., China, and Hong Kong.
Afolabi has always been passionate about finding “things,” haggling, and negotiating prices; his obsession for finding good quality products at bargain prices has led him to help several seven and eight figure amazon brands increase their profits immensely by buying smart from China. He is a big believer in “you’ve got to be able to make money when you buy and not just when you sell.”
This is behind the successful launches of several multimillion-dollar products on Amazon and other retail channels. An entrepreneur at heart; Afolabi loves helping people develop their ideas and inventions into top-selling products.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa. The last born among four children. My Dad was an English Professor in one of our local colleges while my mom was a Head Nurse at the same college. I am very privileged to have my parents as they invested a lot in me and my siblings. Growing up in Nigeria was tough but I am still thankful my experience was not as bad as many folks I know. Even though I did not have all the gadgets and luxuries today’s kids have, the most grateful experience for me is having grown up in a lovely Christian home.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
As Nigeria’s economy started to crumble in the late ’80s, fueled by military dictatorships and corrupt government, my parents began to plan our exit to look for better lives, careers, and education for us all. My Mom came to the U.S. first and my Father later abandoned his teaching career to join her in 1991. Their main goal was to come and set the stage for us all to eventually emigrate.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
As Nigeria’s situation got worse, every year my parents would enter our names into a special immigration program known as the United States Diversity Visa Program. I was eventually selected in 1996 and arrived in New York in January of 1997. Arriving in the U.S. was like a new world to me, my first time experiencing a place where things seem to work well. Roads were in pristine condition, there was law and order, and systems and processes were in place. It was like a dream; I never thought such a place existed on earth after living the first 21 years of my life in a dysfunctional society and country.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My parents and the church I attended are the people I am most grateful for in helping me settle down and adjust well to the change of environment and cultural differences. Going straight to college also helped me integrate well into the culture and how things work. I attended New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and received my second Associate Degree in Fashion Design with a specialization in Women’s Couture. I later returned to the same school to major in Computer Animation and Interactive Media for my Bachelors.
So how are things going today?
Today, I have been blessed to have several businesses including Honu Worldwide, a global sourcing and supply chain management company, One App — world’s first crowd retailing app, and many other entities. I believe anyone with a dream will flourish when put in an environment that fosters growth, rewards risks, and creativity. This is what I believe the U.S. is. For me, it has been a place where I could dream and make it happen without having to cut corners or engage in corrupt activities.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My successes have enabled me to create companies that have given income and career opportunities to disadvantaged citizens. My dream in life is to raise millions of people from poverty into their God-given dreams of a rich, fulfilled, and beautiful life. Every business I own is centered around this purpose — to reach out, help, and lift the poor and less privileged into a good life. Religious freedom in the U.S. has also allowed me to reach out, feed, pray for, and read the Bible with people living in slumps.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
The U.S. immigration system is a tricky one. I believe in helping people as my family emigrate, but I am also concerned about the quality of people that are allowed to emigrate. The three things I will suggest is to: (1) allow people that have genuine needs, or their lives are in danger at their home countries (2) allow people with dreams, aspirations, and intellectual potential to come in by merit (3) refuse corrupt leaders of third world countries from coming in for any reason, especially medical reasons. They messed up the lives of several generations in their home countries. Why should they get to come here and lodge the funds they stole or enjoy medical help they should have set up in their countries?
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
My 5 keys to achieving the American dream are:
- Discover your natural talents. What are your gifts and talents? What do you do so easily but is hard for others to do? These are the keys to your success in life.
- Invest in yourself. Get as much education and knowledge you can get around your gifts and talents.
- Read and study the lives of people that already went through what you are about to do. Read biographies of super successful people.
- Take risks and fail forward. Risk is part of success. I have failed over 71 times when trying to start businesses. I have got into debt and paid them off on my way to where I am today. Without failures, there is no success. The road to success is paved with several failed attempts. Keep failing forward, learn as you fail, and you will eventually master the art of success.
- Surround yourself with successful people or people that will contribute good things to your life. Your circle of influence should be filled with good friends, great spiritual mentors, business mentors, and parents that constantly pray for you.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
I have been blessed with a lovely wife and two sons. When I think of the future in the U.S., my thoughts are: “What will it be when my kids grow up?”. The three things I am optimistic about are: (1) The U.S. still has an environment that encourages and rewards hard work and taking risks.
(2) The U.S. still has standardized systems of checks and balances in place.
(3) Great quality education is still available for people that choose to take advantage of it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Definitely Elon Musk.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!