Disclaimer: I can't write a universal perspective of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur, let alone in a foreign land, because everyone has a different experience, and journey. But there are some hard truths that I discovered in my journey, that I share on my blog that upset a few people.
I'm back in the US, living at home, and I want to continue the discussion from my last post about the 3 types of entrepreneurs I've met.
If you haven't read it, read it HERE.
Why People Disagree?
Now I expected disagreement, because not everyone neatly fits into those 3 categories.
And I recognise I have limited experience as an entrepreneur, in a foreign land, because I'm not married, I don't have children, I'm heterosexual, and I've never worked in the corporate world.
However, people are certainly uncomfortable reading about social class, wealth, and how their private relationships and wealth influences their success.
What is wrong with analysing your supportive network, and admitting how people and wealth contribute to your success?
Because even the most successful entrepreneurs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerburg, give credit to their spouses, family, friends, employees, teachers, and mentors who have helped them along the way.
The essential point of my last blog post was that no one can do it alone.
Everyone gets some kind of help.
Family Dynamics & Sacrifices
So who am I to make such provoking comments about wealth, marriage, and career choices?
Well, here's a little family background.
I'm the youngest of four girls, my parents are separated, and I've moved about 11 times throughout my childhood.
Raised primarily by my mother, I grew up with my whole entire extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
All near by to help and be an example in my life.
When my sister got married and had children, she and husband lived in my mom's home and eventually moved to a nearby town so we could help.
In the USA there is no paid maternity leave (few exceptions), so after 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave my sister went back to work, and my older sister and I did "night shifts" and baby-sitting her newborn.
Growing up, I didn't realise my mom was an entrepreneur, as she's done various small projects and jobs to support herself and our family.
She's a great cook and always wanted to open a restaurant, but never had the capital, network, or spousal support to start her own business.
But that never stopped her from selling food, and being the supportive and loving mother who always had a room to spare, cooked a yummy meal for friends and family, and sharing her wisdom for me to live a better life than she had.
I know people don't like to talk about social class, but I will say my family's socio-economic background is working-class poor.
What made my childhood not too terrible, despite times of hardships, was growing up with extended family who pulled resources together.
My childhood dream was to be a gymnast and compete in the 2016 Olympics.
But gymnastics is an expensive and time consuming sport (I did it for 2 years in high school), that my parents couldn't fully invest in.
I couldn't be a professional gymnast, or ballerina,
so I opted to fulfil my other dream,
During my studies I had opportunities going on class field trips, study abroad in Europe (Greece, Italy, and France) with People to People International in high school, study French for a summer in Quebec, Canada in university, and for graduate school go off to Israel for grad school (and road trip through Europe on my break).
During my secondary education, my mom worked as a live-in hospice care-giver in another city, for about 3 years.
And as a teenager, I missed her dearly, but her job provided enough income for my sisters and I to have a better life.
Life is not easy in the USA if you're working-class poor (especially if you're a single mother, and a "minority"), but having my extended family members;
and living in a society that says its a meritocracy (but the US has class and racial divides, that people also don't like to talk about) has shaped my perspective of what it takes to be successful.
I used to joke with my former partner about being a good "house-girlfriend" (quick note, he did most of the cooking, didn't mind cleaning, and we went grocery shopping together on the weekends).
Since we didn't hire a maid (very affordable option in Bangkok), I was responsible for thoroughly cleaning our home, and any time we had a maintenance problem I was responsible to make arrangements to get things fixed.
I managed of our social lives, made sure we maintained a healthy lifestyle, and created a warm, stress-free, and happy home.
I had no problem managing our home while building my startup, because we were a team, he supports my ambitions and I supported his career.
Teachers Play a Big Role
My experience as a teacher, first teaching high school students then nursery students, also shaped my perspective of what it takes to be successful.
Many of my high school students had parents that owned a business(es), and many were raised by extended family, nannies, or lived alone (during the week) so my co-teachers and I played an active role beyond their studies.
For my nursery students, most were Japanese, and the mothers were all stay-at-home moms (nothing wrong with that), my other students Thai and European, had working mothers and/or nannies (again, nothing wrong with that) I was responsible for teaching my students reading and other skills such as:
How to put on their shoes, how to count with their fingers, how to use a fork and knife, following directions, how to play nicely, saying "please and thank you," patience, etc.
These are skills many people learn from their teachers (of course parents do as well, but in school most of the basic skills are learned).
Teaching is a rewarding job, as teachers teach life skills that people and society often take for granted.
Time is a Limited Resource
What I learned from being a "house girlfriend" (and care giver to my niece and nephew) and teacher has given me an insight to doing the "invisible work" (household chores and childcare that don't have economic value) **some** entrepreneurs don't do, and/or simply outsource.
Consider how much time you save when you hire a maid to clean your condo 2-3 times a week.
Consider the time you save when you have a spouse stay at home, manage the house and do all the child care, while you work 60+ hours a week and travel for business.
Consider the time you save when you hire a nanny (full time or part time) or (extended family) to take care of your children so you can focus on your business (no judgements, it's a choice).
Consider the time and freedom you have, if you're single and child-free, to focus on your career.
Consider the advantage you have (also risky if things don't work out), if you're a male entrepreneur by marrying a local woman, to be your business partner and/or stay at home wife/mom.
Lastly, if you're of a privilege background, please don't take it as an attack on your character, but if you've never had to worry about basic necessities (housing, food, paying student loans, etc.);
your entrepreneurial journey is simply not the same as someone who comes from a lower class background (nothing wrong with that).
I understand that being an entrepreneur is not easy.
But, there needs to be more honesty in the startup community about how our personal lives and wealth influence can influence an entrepreneurs success.
Key word **influence** not define, as many entrepreneurs have "made it," to the top, but they are exceptions, not the rule.
Money Makes a Difference
I left out one key factor in my last post, aside from having a supportive partner I have an Angel investor.
Why did I leave that out?
Because, I want to save this part of my journey for the book that I'm currently working on.
But before my investment I used money from my humble teaching salary and lived off the income from selling products (this is before I met and lived with my former partner).
I did all my designs, used very basic packaging, and attempted to make my own scents.
Now, at some point as an entrepreneur you need to build a team, and improve the quality of your product/service.
So you can scale.
And to scale you need money.
Commercialisation of Fundraising
I will say, to people in the startup ecosystem: leaders, Angels, VC's, organiser, and successful entrepreneurs, we need to be more honest about fundraising in the SE Asia.
People are happy to give advice, share their stories, and encourage startups to join incubators and accelerator program that are "popping up" all over SE Asia;
Every other month there is some kind of tech summits, road-shows, and pitching competition;
but when it comes down to investing and fundraising seed, or Series A, B, C, D & E, people don't honestly talk about how difficult it is for a startup to secure outside investment.
And the unicorns that do receive investment from 500 Startups, Sequoia, Ant Financial, Tencent, Tamasek investments;
started their startup using their own money and/or money from their network.
No One Owes Me Anything
Many entrepreneurs I know (and read about), use money from their personal saving, and fundraise from their family, friends and professional network.
Maybe I need to do "more homework" on fund-raising, or be in the right spaces to meet and pitch my idea to Angel's and VC's;
But if you've followed my journey, I've been in "the right spaces," I have a good product, I blog (wrote for Techsauce 2017 and other BKK tech events);
I have customers, and my idea is "disruptive" and has a tech component.
And all I've been able to get from the startup ecosystem is advice and invitations to write and attend more tech events.
Maybe it's me.
Maybe cosmetics is not interesting to Angels and VC's,
maybe I need to add more tech or some AI component to my startup,
but what I do know is that I have better luck fundraising outside of Asia.
And I don't have to attend tech and startup events to meet an investor (I met my Angel investor at a Halloween party).
I'm not giving up on the SE Asia startup ecosystem, but I'm taking a new strategy to build and scale my startup.
Hence why left Bangkok (temporarily) and returned home to fundraise and write my story.
Stay tuned for my post about my reverse culture shock being back in the US (oh, be prepared to get mad, especially if you're American, and a feminist)
If you still disagree with my perspective, feel free to write a comment down below!
Thank you for reading :)