Featuring Mila Christina’s founder, Ollia Njibaloh, and her two daughters, Mila and Helena.
Immigrating to the US is tough - your accent, clothes, values, and anything else that separates you from the new culture you live in can draw attention to you (and not always in a good way). Most immigrants are faced with certain challenges when they come to America, such as the language barrier, understanding the new environment, and finding opportunities easily.
With all of these obstacles already in place, I believe you can also add an immigrant-becoming-an-entrepreneur to that list of challenges. When I first moved to America, I noticed a huge lack of a support system and financial education for immigrant business owners, which is unfortunate because I believe that immigrants are one of the hardest working groups of people and, for the most part, do well with their businesses.
And unfortunately due to discrimination - especially if you are a woman of color with an accent, like me - you may find some difficulty when trying to find investors, partners, and people that believe in you and your business ideas.
However, I am someone who believes in that American dream and believes that if you want something enough (and work hard enough) then you can make your career goals come to life. So, how do you get started?: by getting into the right mindset! Below are my four pieces of advice for beginning your journey as an immigrant entrepreneur in America!
Knowledge is Power - In a country that has every single thing documented and with today’s access to information, learn and never stop learning because you can always get better at your skill. Additionally, always doing some minimum research before heading into anything will save you some headache. Surround yourself with people that are better than you in your desired field and people that inspire you to work hard. Self development books are also a great option if you need to find inspiration or motivation to meet your goals!
Not Everything That Shines is Gold - This is a big one for me; in my early years in business, I was too trusting and gullible - and truth be told, I was even more impressed when someone flaunted “ success.” But most of the time, it’s like social media: it is usually a facade. Always make sure to do your research on anyone that promises you anything! Never base your judgement on the way someone may appear. Most people are flaky and will make you excited for an opportunity that most likely will never happen. My advice? Look at all your options, trust your gut, and look at someone’s background before you put all your eggs in one basket.
Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Noise (this is told to us as children in Cameroon) - Exactly that…. the loudest in the room is most of the time not the smartest. Do not just listen to anyone that has confidence in what they are saying. Doing your research and receiving help or advice from real professionals (instead of people who are not qualified) is the best way to go.
And finally - very cliche but true - You Hold the Key to Your Own Success. NO ONE ELSE!
Happy National Immigrants Day! My name is Ollia Njibaloh and I am the founder of Mila Christina, which is a babies & toddlers clothing brand that amazingly just launched at Bloomingdale’s!! I am so proud of where I came from (Cameroon, Africa) and what I have accomplished so far in the United States. While there have been many challenges with building my business from the ground up, I always knew that perseverance and the right mindset would help get me through.
I wrote this post in celebration of immigrants everywhere and my small business becoming a part of the luxury department store, Bloomingdale’s! I hope this post will inspire other immigrants in America to follow their dreams and never give up, even when things get tough.