This above picture is a board meeting conducted by my father in 1980 which is exactly 36 years ago and I know for sure how it changed the lives of thousands of families who were impacted by the floods in India.
I’m an immigrant from India and being an entrepreneur means little different to me than most people who were born in the United States. I grew up in extremely adverse conditions. Our access to resources was limited, and I never received any structured classroom education around running a successful business or becoming an entrepreneur.
After high school, I began working right away selling real estate and earning money in brokerage. Growing up, I watched my father fight for social causes all his life, raising funds to help others throughout his life without making a penny for himself or his family. He was a public figure and a social activist. I respected him, but I did not want to be poor all of my life. At that time, it seemed like I had to choose one or the other — to champion social causes or become an entrepreneur. I did not understand then that I could do both as a social entrepreneur.
I worked hard and continued to attend school, earning my MBA in India. When I arrived here, I had no idea how businesses takes off in United States. I had only one thing with me — the fire, passion, and conviction to succeed. Creativity has always come naturally to me, which helped me in all aspects of my startup. Because I was familiar with the U.S. healthcare system, I began building on that skillset, pulling from my years of experience working with the vendor running back office in India for Henry Ford Hospitals.
Entrepreneurship for me was always converting adversities into opportunities.
Along the way, I have learned that my father wasn’t all wrong. Doing good for society is important, but my path has been different. Through my work, my businesses, and my success, I have the ability and freedom to do good for those in my family, my community, and the greater society at large daily. As a social entrepreneur, my focus is not on simply making money; my focus is on creating large scale wealth, for myself and others.
If I were to give advice to hopeful entrepreneurs it would be twofold: Never discount the importance of your dreams, and chase after them.
Creativity in your heart plays a vital role in bringing out new ideas. I have followed my passion with the full force of my will, trusting that I will always find a creative way to approach every challenge, and adjust as necessary. When you think about new ideas and dare to share them with the world, consider the execution of those ideas. Start mapping out what you need to accomplish one step at a time. Then complete those steps, learning and creatively shifting along the way. Successful execution isn’t just passion. It takes passion, critical thinking, and a solid structured business plan to succeed in today’s economy.
What truly separates an entrepreneurs from other passionate professionals is the drive to bring their dreams into reality. This is one of the most important gifts any entrepreneur can have, but even this quality must be refined and polished over time. The tools and technologies available today make planning, doing, and optimizing the execution of your dreams more precise than ever before. Consider the meteoric rise of the founders of Google and Facebook. They never expected the exponential success of their work, but to their surprise (and the world’s) they have become iconic figures. Today’s disruptive not-for-profits like @KhanAcademy and @GrameenBank have impacted billions in just a few years, whereas Red Cross took over 100 years to build up its outreach.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
It means to make goals based on your dreams, and to build something concrete from that vision. From there, the variations can be endless. What most entrepreneurs do have in common is the spirit and vision to create their business, the drive to build that business to success, and the tenacity to overcome challenges along the way.
We, as entrepreneurs, are always on a quest to realize our dreams. Whether you are nurturing your one big dream, or working to build them all as a serial entrepreneur, I hope you keep your feeling of restlessness. I hope you continue to create, solve problems, and address challenges — to grow what you have started. This, to me, is the greatest calling in life.