Iva Kubickova, Content Executive   04 July 2019

Portraits of eight female immigrant entrepreneurs on a purple background

Immigrants run businesses of all kinds and sizes – from small fashion boutiques to highly profitable corporations. Their knowledge of different languages, cultures and business practices enables them to bring fresh business ideas and attitudes to boost economies and open opportunities for cooperation with their home countries.

Over the past year, we’ve spoken to several inspirational female entrepreneurs and professionals working in various industries and rounded up their top tips for anyone aspiring to run their own business and achieve their goals.

 

bisila bokoko dressed in pink and black speaking on a podium“A


1. Bisila Bokoko

"Always nurture your support system."

Who is Bisila Bokoko?

When a local business aspires to be global, Bisila Bokoko is there to help. An internationally acclaimed businesswoman, she was previously an Executive Director at the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce in New York. She then launched BBES, her global business consulting firm in 2012. 

Heritage

Born in Spain to parents from Equatorial Guinea.

Interesting fact

Bisila lost her job in 2012, which led her to launch her own business. “I realised that I could be fired from any other job, and therefore had to create something myself,” she said.

She says:

Somebody once told me that you must be kind to everyone. You’ll see the same people on your way up, as you do when you’re going down, so treat everyone as a human being and connect with them, because then in the bad times you’ll always have someone there for you. It’s easy to have friends and support when everything is great, but less so when things get tough. You need a support system to keep you connected, to have someone who’ll always tell you the truth.

For most people of African descent, we think we can only shine through our jobs - through established professions, like architects and lawyers. We need to think outside the box and be ready for freefall, to jump outside our comfort zone.

I’m no different to you or anyone else reading this. Everyone can live their dream. You just need to lose your fear of failure.

 

rahama wright presenting shea yeleen products in a shop“A


2. Rahama Wright

"Don’t expect to build an empire in a day."

Who is Rahama Wright?

10 years ago, Rahama Wright signed up to volunteer with the Peace Corps in Mali. The experience motivated her to start a business that would make a positive social impact through shea butter—which is critical to the livelihoods of many women across Africa.

Rahama’s company, Shea Yeleen, distributes high-quality, unrefined shea butter products and improves women's access to living wage jobs.

Heritage

Ghanaian American.

Interesting fact

It took Rahama seven years of odd jobs and sleeping on her friend’s couch to raise enough capital for her business.

She says:

Align with those who share your values and believe in what you are doing. When I started, my resources were very limited. There is always something you won’t have access to, but you can always gain access to the right people.

Also, be patient. There are many misconceptions about how long it takes to build a sustainable and profitable company. You don't need to have a fully functioning profitable business within the first three years.

 

entrepreneur ade hassan standing in her shop with nude clothes for all skin types“A


3. Ade Hassan

"Find an industry expert to become your consultant."

Who is Ade Hassan?

Ade launched her company Nubian Skin in 2014. Using the strapline - ‘Empowering Women. Embracing our Colour’, she’s offering diversity and colour representation for darker skin tones in women’s lingerie and hosiery. Her business has gone from strength to strength, attracting worldwide attention.

Heritage

British Nigerian.

Interesting fact

Ade’s garments have dressed renowned celebrities such as Beyoncé and her dance crew during her 2016 World Tour.

She says:

It’s incredibly important to have a great support base. You can handle a lot more stress than you think. To get advice on where to start, find an industry expert who can act as your consultant.

Take it one step at the time and learn as you go. And always remember to always be grateful – make it your mission to find pleasure in what you do.

 

Diane Audrey Ngako with long braids ponytail portrait“A


4. Diane Audrey Ngako

"Less talking - just do it."

Who is Diane Audrey Ngako?

After forging a successful career with some of France’s most prominent media outlets, Diane took the bold decision to return to Cameroon. Since then she’s launched a series of successful businesses and ventures in sectors from tourism to arts and culture.

Heritage

Born and raised in Cameroon.

Interesting fact

In 2016, international magazine Forbes named Diane one of the most influential under 30s in Africa.

She says:

Less talking - just do it. If you feel like it’s not right for you after six months or one year, then stop. Maybe it’s not for you. It’s good to know your own limits.

But even in the darkest places, there is light. Sometimes you can feel really lonely on your journey, but you have to stay focused on that light, no matter what. That’s how you make things happen.

I love the quote: ‘If an opportunity doesn’t knock on your door, build the door.’ I always keep those words in my head. If something doesn’t just come to me, then I have to make it happen.

 

artist miss dunnie o in a colourful statement dress in her atelier full of african inspired art“A


5. Miss Dunnie O

"Stay focused, no matter what."

Who is Dunnie O?

The world knows her as a talented marketing consultant and an events producer, who’s taken the events scene in Los Angeles by storm. She is currently devoting her time cultivating her artistry as a painter and muralist.

Heritage

Nigerian American.

Interesting fact

Dunnie’s inspiration is Queen Idia - a warrior queen of the ancient Kingdom of Benin. “Her story and greatness inspired me to realise that, as a woman of African descent, I carry the same power and strength within me,” she shared with us.

She says:

Believe in yourself and have faith in God! You can achieve anything you set your mind to. Also, never allow any obstacles you may face to get in the way. Keep going and stay focused, no matter what.

It’s okay that some days are more challenging and demanding than others. All the difficulties that we face make our life journey so unique and beautiful.

 

muna lobe in a blue shirt and red head scarf with glasses standing in front of a brick wall“A


6. Muna Lobe

"Be brave enough to try new things."

Who is Muna Lobe?

An anthropologist by training and global nomad, Muna founded and leads AYA Consulting. Working with artists, art practitioners, and art institutions she is seeking to create, support and enhance projects showcasing the culturally rich realities and talents of the African continent, the Caribbean, and diasporic spaces across the world.

Heritage

African and Caribbean: Cameroon, Ghana and Guadeloupe.

Interesting fact

As a new mother herself, she says her daughter is the thing she’s most proud of in the world.

She says

As a child, I was always in a hurry to grow up. I always wanted to be older and a step ahead. This urge to grow up fast pushed me to reach new heights; I was constantly setting myself goals. It’s important to have new objectives and ambition; be brave enough to try things.

Live without fear; there’s nothing to be afraid of. Always try; never ever stop trying, because that’s how you learn, that’s how you live, that’s how you love.

 

portrait of Noëlla Coursaris Musunka smiling“A


7. Noëlla Coursaris Musunka

"Work hard and be independent."

Who is Noëlla Coursaris Musunka?

In 2007, Noella founded and launched Malaika - a non-profit organisation empowering Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs. Malaika’s projects are free of charge and are impacting thousands of lives in the community.

Heritage

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a Cypriot father and a Congolese mother.

Interesting fact

Noëlla has a successful modelling career- having appeared in a campaign for Agent Provocateur, and in the likes of Elle, Vogue or Vanity fair. As she travelled the world, she discovered a way to share her passion for human rights.

She says:

Never give up. Sometimes, when you have nothing, you know that if you fall there’s no one there to pick you up. So, work hard, be independent, and keep going.

 

music executive clara pablo standing in her office full of music posters and instruments dressed in jeans and blue jacket“A


8.Clara Pablo

"Don’t let what others see be your weakness."

Who is Clara Pablo?

Clara is a music executive marketing powerhouse. Having worked with Shakira, Carlos Vives or Ricky Martin, she’s been extremely successful in her career.

Heritage

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic.

Interesting fact

A breast cancer survivor, Clara is the first Latino ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

She says:

We should be proud of being immigrants and we should be proud of how far we've come. The fact that you’re able to pick up your things and leave the country you were born in to find a better life? That takes balls. And if you’re able to do that, you can do anything else. Use that as your drive to achieve your dreams.

I have a special message for all Latinas. We are queens – do not let anybody convince you that we’re not. We're always going to be looked at as immigrants, whether we were born here or not. But those are the things that also make us powerful.

So, don’t let what others see be your weakness. Let that be your strength and let that continue to push you forward to follow your dreams. And don't let anybody ever make you feel inferior because of who you are.

line of dots next to each other on a white background“A

And there you have it!

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Do you know any migrant with an inspirational story? Let us know in the comments, so we and our readers can learn more about them.