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From Immigrant to Entrepreneur: Five Tips for Building Your American Dream

Making Your Dream a Reality

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Errol Anderson, CEO of Popongo
Errol Anderson, CEO of Popongo

Necessity has always been the mother of invention. While the challenges the COVID lockdown brought were immense, they also led me to launch my latest venture, Popongo.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would invent a game that I manufacture and sell nationally. When I came up with the idea for Popongo, I was simply looking for a fun, socially distanced way to connect with friends I had missed during quarantine. I spent hours on end designing and perfecting the game of Popongo and along the way, I learned a lot I hope will help other immigrant entrepreneurs carve out their own American Dream.

Stay Curious

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s the secret sauce behind being a successful entrepreneur. Businesses are created because someone was curious and daring enough to find a solution to a clear and inherent issue.

It was this trait that led to the development of Popongo. After a few months of lockdown, a few friends sent out a message asking if we could get together in a backyard and hang out while adhering to the rules of social distancing. We wanted to bring outdoor games that would allow distance while we played. There were very few options, and those we saw were not terribly exciting. I thought to myself “This is it? This is all we have for outdoor games?” That was the “aha moment”. I did not necessarily think I was going to be successful at coming up with something but thought it would be fun to try.

Without a sense of curiosity, I never would have come up with my business idea.

Find Your Motivation

For my latest business adventure, the motivation was clearly to solve a problem during an unprecedented situation. But my motivation to become an entrepreneur stems back to the example my mother set.

I was born and raised in Jamaica by my mother Rose. She was a single mom who worked two jobs to provide for my brother, sister and I. As a 14-year-old, I watched how hard she worked and I made a vow that one day, I would make sure she wouldn’t have to work as hard. My plan was to get to America and create a future for myself where I could provide for my mom. The key is to find what drives you and never forget it.

Remember that Nothing Comes Easy

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Heights by great men reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” This quote means everything to me, and I live every day with it in mind. I am a firm believer that, in life, nothing great comes easy. A lot of people have goals and are great at vocalizing those goals, but very few seem have the discipline and drive to put in the effort to do what it takes to accomplish those goals.

Everyone experiences setbacks on their path. Successful entrepreneurs understand they are simply part of the journey. Adjust and keep moving forward. Do not let one defeat define you.

Keep Learning

If you think you’re done learning once you leave school, you’ll never be a successful entrepreneur. An entrepreneur has to wear many hats and some of them will feel very unfamiliar. When you’re faced with something out of your skill set, like I was when I had to set up manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment, I didn’t say, “This is too hard,” but instead I focused and was determined to learn how to do what I needed to do. Learning something new was part of the fun of launching the business. When we’re not learning, we’re not growing.

Keep the Faith

Other than hard work and manners, I’m a firm believer in having faith and remaining optimistic even in the darkest and hardest of times. Without that, what else is left? Every day, we all get to make decisions on who we are as people that day and therefore who we want to be tomorrow. The last year has been tough on everyone, and it is our responsibility, as individuals, to decide how we choose to react. By reacting with faith and optimism, I believe you’ll have a better mindset to capitalize on opportunities and weather the tough times all entrepreneurs inevitably face.

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