In this episode you will learn the keys to successful entrepreneurship shared by Wasim Naboulsi. Wasim, originally from Syria is a business owner in the St Pete / Clearwater area.
He came to the U.S. by himself in 1996, went to school, got a Masters Degree, and became a business owner.
Sounds like a straight, easy path, it was not. He faced many challenges. If you are an immigrant you might have gone or are going through similar struggles. Wasim did not give up. He was determined to figure out how to overcome obstacles as they kept on coming. Want some inspiration? This episode is for you!
Are you in St Pete area? Stop by at Thirst Gastro Lounge. Click here to check it out. It’s a great place. http://dinetryst.com/
I’m a life coach for immigrants. I’m here to help you if you feel like your life is pretty good, but not great. You know you have a potential to live more fulfilled life, but you don’t know how to get there. This is what I help with. Sounds like you could use my help? To schedule a free consultation with me click here: http://lifecoachforimmigrants.com/work-with-me/
the consultation you will tell me what do you want to be different, and
I will tell you how exactly I could help you. Takes an hour, could
completely change your life.
Ewelina: Hi everyone. This is Ewelina, Life Coach for Immigrants and today I have a very special guest Wasim Naboulsi. Wasim is originally from Syria. He’s a very successful immigrant, an owner of many businesses in the Saint Pete/Clearwater area. Wasim, welcome to the show. Thank you for coming!
Wasim: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me.
Ewelina: Yeah, so we will start as I usually start with my guests. I’m just going to ask you. When did you come? I already mentioned that you’re from Syria. But tell us, when did you come to the States? How old were you?
Wasim: I was twenty-four years old when I came to the States, in 1996.
Ewelina: Did you come just to study?
Wasim: Technically, yes. I was applying, trying to apply for a student visa in 1996 and I got accepted in Eckerd College, not far from Saint Pete. And I came here on an English course. Intensive English course for the summer time and I came here and I loved the place and I stayed here.
Wasim: That was yeah, that was the first time I came to the US.
Ewelina: Yeah so you’ve been here for quite some time. Yeah, so long for the listeners to know. I just want to mention to all of you that Wasim and I have met a few days ago and we sat down just to kind of chat about this interview and what we would be discussing. And as we talked for probably about an hour, I kept on going: Oh my gosh, we should talk about this and then we’ll talk about something else. And I would have exactly the same reaction because there is so much wisdom in Wasim, so much experience.
Wasim: Thank you very much.
Ewelina: Well, it’s true. Right? We we had a good conversation and we touched on so many different points. So this is why I’ve decided to instead of choosing one specific topic. I decided that it’s best to ask Wasim: What are the keys to being a successful entrepreneur here in the United States, if you are an immigrant? So Wasim, what do you think would be some of those things, that are very, very important?
Wasim: Well I mean, the most important part is, I mean, talking about entrepreneur and also, I mean, generally speaking, the most important part is you have to have a plan, you know, a lot of people don’t have a plan where they’re going in life. So you have to have a plan and when I was, when I was overseas, I had a plan that I want to be in the US, even when I was fourteen years old, you know, I put it like, you know… between my eyes that one day I’m going to be in the U.S. How I didn’t know how… so that was my plan before even I thought about like, you know, being an entrepreneur. Just go to the US because the opportunity was much better than my country. I would say. So that was the first step. And then I had to execute that plan and think about it. And how do I get my plan executed correctly and not failing from the first try? And I did it. And that was the first thing. Once you have a plan, everything comes easy, the challenges you have to meet they’re not going to be so hard because you have a plan. You have a vision, you’re, you know, where you’re heading. You know, what you want to do. I mean, that is the most important part. Then, everything comes easy. I know it is though. I faced a lot of challenges, but I did not give up. I kept going over and keep trying, over and over until I did what I wanted. I said this is the plan. I’m going to be in the US when how I did not put the date, but I said to have to exclude the plan so the first step I left Syria I went to the United Arab Emirates. I was there working, you know, I start getting experience. That was young,eighteen years old, didn’t know anything, got a job there in textiles retail shops. And that’s when I started learning about business and entrepreneurship and the same time, I kept the plan going and within 4 years, I made sure. when I go apply for the Visa, I will get accepted, you know, and I sure did when I went there. So that was then. It took me like four or five years to be in the USA. So that was the first plan. The second thing when I thought is when, when I landed here I said I’m gonna go to school. I’m going to finish my education here. I’m going to USF. I’m going to graduate with master degree, and within time frame. I put the time frame. I said within five years, I have to graduate. And then I said I wanna get a job and that’s when everything started like coming back to me and I say: Okay what kind of job you’re going to get? How we going to get a job? Where are you going to see yourself in the next five, ten years from now? And this is when I start thinking that, you know, in order to really be doing something that you like in life I said I want to have my own business. And that was my plan as well. So that’s like something you know I had in a back of my mind right before I started everything. And I kept going towards my goals.
Okay, so it’s almost like the first point of your plan was to come to the U.S. Right and then you work on that and then the second one, okay to be successful. I first have to be educated, so I’m going to school and then well, I actually wanna be working by myself. So and that’s when the plan was unfolding for the next step is fascinating because there was a little bit of flexibility and you but you also have this determination because, you knew, that the end result will be your life right now, right?
Yes. I mean, of course you have to be determined. You have to trust yourself. The problem is like first of all, you have to trust yourself. Once you trust yourself, then you will be able to see a lot of positive things, you know, because you know, trust and confidence is contagious, once you tell people like, you know, you want to do it, people like that kind of confidence. So they will drive the energy from that. And as well, they share it with you. So, you have to trust yourself first and then when you have a goal when you set up a goal in your life, this is where I want to be in the next five to ten years, and then you execute you have to see all the challenges and when you see the challenges you don’t, listen to the negative around you because a lot of noises, start telling me I’m not going to make it, you know, a lot of people went to the US. What are you going to do? We’re going to be like, working for a gas station or, you know, getting a job barely? Paying your bills? You’re better off staying here. I mean, everybody told me that before even I left. Oh, if you get a chance to get you go to school, no way you would get a go to school! That’s people kept telling me even before I left, when I was in Dubai, you know, they said I don’t think at twenty-four because you quit school, you know, you’ve been out of school since you know, four years ago, you’re going to go back to school. That’s crazy. First second. I don’t think you’ll be able to graduate, you’re not going to be able to even to understand English, that’s what they kept telling me. Every day. All my friends.
Ewelina: So as people are coming at you, right and they’re giving you the own self-doubts basically. Well, they’re doing the projecting on you, their thoughts that would stop them. Right? You’re not hearing them. What is happening in your mind? Is like well, I will prove to watch me. I’m kind of a thought?
Wasim: No, actually exactly. Actually the more they told me that the more determined I become, you know, that I’m going to succeed. I mean, I drove my energy and I’m still driving energy from those people, you know, that the negative people I drive my energy from them because they challenge me and I like somebody who challenge me and so the more they said, I can’t do it. I proved them wrong every time. So I mean, seriously, I’m not talking about only friends, friends, family and everyone else and you said like you’re going to a country that you have no idea. It’s not your culture. You know, you don’t speak the language. What are you going to do? You don’t have anybody. Who’s going to help you? How are you gonna go there? How do you know anybody? Why would you go to Florida? Why Florida? Why St Pete? Cuz I was accepted in school. You know, how are you gonna, how are you going to communicate when you when you land there, who’s gonna pick you, who’s gonna pick you up from the airport? So all these questions, you know, they kept saying it to me constantly before, even I left and it was kind of like, you know what? Let me try, why not? Just try and I’ll tell you later. And the more I push the envelope… I mean, it’s easier than what people say, people actually amplify this. Make it like so horrific so scary when in reality, it’s not because you’re not going to desert, you’re going to a country where people… you don’t see people starving on, you know, starving to death on the street, the system will help you. I remember when I landed here when I went to school, the first time I applied I went to the school, school teacher, she was in like in the college and I told her: Do you think I can go to school? And she looked at me like: Why not? Cause everybody told me you can not go to school! It’s hard for you to study in different language. And she told me why not? Why do you think you are different from anyone else? You can do it, yes you can do it! And I’ll never forget that statement when she said that! I said wow! I got 4 GPA all the way until I graduated, you know because I applied myself, and I have proof of my GPA. I finished my first 2 years college and then I went to USF studied marketing, finance, and I didn’t know anything about math, you know. My math was horrible. But I was determined to figure it out and I became very good at math because I learned literally math from scratch. Even though I went to school in Syria but I wasn’t really good at math I was horrible. So when I, I got to school, they said in order to pass the classes, you have to take Geometry, Algebra, Derivatives and I didn’t know anything about it. And it was kind of like an always mind-boggling for me to understand them, but I was determined to start from zero, and I did really make a high grade in every math class, because I learned from scratch. So people, keep saying, to me that you cannot learn that subject. You can understand this because that’s above, above you I proved them wrong not because I want to prove them wrong because I tried. All I did is try and all I say to people try just try see how it goes. What do you get to lose? You got nothing to lose, just try.
Ewelina: The math that you were studying with Syria and the math you were studying here in the United States. I’m sure it was a different level because this is University level math, but altogether, like what’s coming to my mind is that there was math in Syria and this is math too and what was different. It was just your attitude. Like you’re determined here to understand it’s to take to take it to the very basics and it’s almost like it was a different version of the same human being. The one in Syria was like: Math is hard. I can’t learn it. The one in the States. I will figure it out.
Wasim: Yes, and let me just confirm that statement. In Syria the culture is a pessimist culture. You know, in school, they want to just see how you’re going to fail. They just look at you say, okay, they’re going to give you the hardest equation ever. So, they see how you failed. Here’s the culture is what we can, what we can do to help you succeed. That is the culture. You have to be in. In Syria, everything, because in Syria, it’s a socialized education. So only a few people. They can go apply for, you know, medical school if they get higher grades and their high school. So everything is competing to see who’s going to say and who’s going to succeed. Okay, and that is the huge difference between the cultures. When the culture surrounding you here, surrounding in school, trying to tell you, we you have so many different ways you can succeed. It’s not that difficult. But once you live in that kind of environment, you will excel no doubt about it. I mean, I believe in a hundred percent, you have to surround yourself with positive people constantly, so they can help you succeed. You know, when you are surrounded yourself with negative people. Of course, you’re going to fail because you listened to it constantly, constantly, constantly.
Ewelina: Yeah I agree with you right. So yeah it’s fascinating because it’s almost like we come from mentally and emotionally like, because of the history of our countries from like a lower level right?
Wasim: Yes Absolutely.
Ewelina: But because we grew up there we are stronger, right? And then you come here and you have bunch of different challenges that are just thrown at you and you have to figure out your way through it and you face it and you become even stronger because of that, and then as we keep on going and keep on becoming more successful, like when we talked on Monday, you told me: I’m just cruising in my life right now, you know. It’s amazing! That’s what we all should be going after, just cruising. Setting our life in a way where things are manageable. You are very smart about how you manage your time. Overall how you are spending your time, your priorities, all of that is in place, right? And you can be cruising.
Wasim: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. You know when you come here, or once you come here and try the culture here you are gonna realize the opportunities. You are gonna realize how many things you have been told about this country that is not true, you know. How many things you have been told about this culture that is not true. But at the same time also don’t forget, your culture also made you stronger because if you made it here, then you are strong. I mean I remember my friend when he told me: “You Wassim, you are not gonna fail.” I said Wow, what are you saying? He was like: “You are an immigrant! You are not citizen by birth, you are citizen by choice and that’s a huge difference!” He literally told me: “You are citizen by choice. You chose to be the citizen here. You were not born here! So you chances to fail, your chances are a lot less than people who were born here, because they take it for granted.” So here we go, people have to think that way. But right now I would consider Google is The Equalizer, you know, the internet is The Equalizer because you know, give us like equal opportunity to every single person in this country regardless of your race. Your color, you your ethnicity, you know, your language. It gives you an equal-opportunity, you can do whatever you want to do. Just go on the internet and search how you going to start business or find a job, or whatever you want to do in your life, you know, you have every tool to help you, so you have no excuse. You know people told me from from day one. I told them what I want to do and they said, yes, you can do it, you know, and that will change. That was open my mind more and more every time I met people here. And they tell me why not? Why not? And even if you don’t speak the language, we’re going to teach you will help you. Don’t worry make a mistake and I always tell people make mistakes. That’s not it’s not not nothing wrong with that but don’t dwell in your mistake, you know move on fix it and move on but don’t think if you made a mistake. It’s the end of the world.
Ewelina: Oh, absolutely. I one hundred percent agree with you. And you know, that’s the perfectionist in us, right? That’s it’s like the moment you make a mistake, then something has gone wrong. And now you just need to turn around and completely abandon the goal. Some of us have them very, very strong within our personality where we just tend to do that but you’re right. Learn from the mistakes evaluate and try again. Anything else that you have in your points to succeed coming back to that conversation… anything else you would suggest for our listeners?
Wasim: Once you have a goal in life, once once you set up a goal in your life, then you put the plan to execute that goal, you know, and then along the way you have to be like, what I said, you have to be persistent, persistent perseverance, you have to have patience, nothing comes over night. You have to see the long-term vision. Don’t don’t focus on the short term because a lot of people they just want to have it now, you know, immediately it doesn’t happen immediately and most importantly, you have to always spread the positive, you have to be positive person constantly. So that positive hits you back and it helps you along the way. Stay away from negative people. But the most important part is once you have a goal. And once you are shooting at that goal. You have to keep going non-stop. And once you make it a top, the most important part, which a lot of people forget. They cannot maintain the top. They just go crazy. The brain cannot handle that situation. You know, how you going to not only humble yourself, but how are you going to keep your ground solid? You have to Humble. You have to be approachable. You have to speak to people. You have to always, you know, accept criticism. Accept people, giving you feedback, just put in your mind that it might go away in any minute. When you put your mindset that way, every day, you wake up, you see. It’s a blessing. It’s, it’s a present. It’s, it’s kind of like, you know, I’ve been given another chance regardless of your situation. You always have to be appreciative gratitude and you know, think about it, you know, it might go away in any minute.
Ewelina: So true and we forget that death can be just around the corner.
Wasim: And I always say: once you make it to the top you have to reach out to those who are you know, behind you and you have to help them as well.
Ewelina: Yeah, that’s right! Build the legacy, build the legacy right? When is your book coming out?
Wasim: My book? Hehe.
Ewelina: Haha, when is it coming out? You should write one, you know that right?
Wasim: Maybe right? Maybe I should right? Maybe I should write a book, right?
Ewelina: Without the question. As I walked away on Monday, I was just like, Oh my God, he is just… I mean look how many people you could inspire? I mean it’s just unbelievable!
Wasim: Made me humble… and you know I feel like you know if I did something positive impact on someone it makes my day. Because I would love to see people succeed I mean I was always, always, when I see graduation ceremonies I always have tears in my eyes when I see kids make it to the highest degree and graduate… it makes me feel good when people achieve their goal and people, you know, become successful. It makes me feel good.
Ewelina: Is it because you have gone through it? Like the studying and like you had to convince yourself you are good at math and all that wasn’t easy, right? And so you understand the drive that it takes? That’s probably it, right? That’s why you get emotional…
Wasim: Also understand the drive and two for nothing to prove all the nay-sayers, all the negative people, all the people who always have a pessimistic idea about life and you know and about success and about school to tell them you are on the wrong side of history, you know? You are going down, you are not… you are not gonna, if you stay with this attitude you are on the wrong side of history because only the right things will progress.
We can conquer all the fear and we can conquer all the problems on Earth if we be united and if we take care of each other.
Ewelina: Yeah, but it starts one person at the time so if you write a book, you know, here we go: Here is a book from someone who came from this country and you know, think about the young men that you could influence that are from Syria and are not seeing the possibility of having a different life because they are under the same type of oppression that you have been under but they don’t have that idea at all.
Wasim: Dictatorship. Yeah. I mean you guys were in communism. Communism with Russia and we were like, we were not far, far, far off, we were like fascism, plus communism, plus socialism, plus dictatorship all of the above, you know? All of the above. We went through all of it and I understand you know, how people feel, I understand how everyday they have to just struggle for everyday life. When I met you I was talking to you for a while because I was like, I can relate to that story myself. Very much can relate to that story and I always wanna share. If I can relate to something I am always passionate about it.
Ewelina: Well yeah, it’s your life. That wisdom and there is like, notice there is like that energy build up behind it that wants to be expressed, it wants to be shared because there are other people that are out there yearning for it. They wanna hear it. They want to hear a story of a successful immigrant because you know what? There are a lot of people out there who are not successful that are immigrants. That are struggling, that are believing whatever story they brought from back home you know like that thought you had I’m not that good at math, that could stand in somebody’s way. You chose to change that thought and be like: No, I will figure it out. I will learn from the very beginning. I will figure it out. There is a lot of people that will hold to their old identity.
Wasim: Yeah it just came like you know… I didn’t even think about it, because I remember that when I was growing up in Syria, in Syria school is dictating, they dictate in the class room the teacher dictates, you can not ask questions, so it get me, made me scared, you know and I never asked questions, and I felt I was very bad in math, I’m very bad, I will never succeed, in my high school I struggled you know my math was maybe I failed in math. And when I came to school here, I looked at it like, why? Why, why is this hard? Let me start from scratch. Maybe I learned something wrong. And literally when I applied myself 100% and I wanted to start from scratch from subtraction and addition and the more I applied myself the better I became at it. So it’s like: Why? Why they told me that I suck in math, I’m not good in science, I’m not good in language, I’m not good in anything, it made me feel like, you know, unworthy of anything and that puts me down, my self esteem is gone. You know, I have a low self-esteem, I have less expectations of myself and that’s how the culture in Syria put me everyday. You know, listen this country is not perfect, far from perfect, this country has a lot of issues, U.S. but at least this country is evolving. You know what makes it stronger? It’s not a homogeneous society. It is different people from all walks of life. Your next door is Filipino, you know, next down the street they are Turkish so you share… the weaknesses are not shareable, your weakness is his strength and his strength your weakness. And that’s how you know, we compliment each other. But when you go to a homogeneous society, people share the same mistakes over generations, and generation they all have the same issue, they wanna drink tea with 10 spoons of sugar, okay? That’s how they’ve been doing it for the last 10,000 years and they keep doing it over and over and over again, nobody challenged the status quo. People don’t see that. In this country my next door neighbor is black. My next door is Jewish. You know, my, my neighbor is Filipino, this is not… you don’t see it in Syria. In Syria, everybody they grew up, they’ve been rooted in the city for hundreds of years, that’s why I say homogeneous, and when the cell has the same problem, you know, always they have a weakness and that weakness is sharable over generations. Here is America our variety, our differences make us stronger you know, not weaker, you know. It really makes this country stronger because everybody comes from different perspective. Different countries.
Ewelina: So, tell me we will be wrapping, but I would love to know if you’re willing to share with the listeners where they can find you, where they can go to check out your restaurant, the businesses.
Wasim: Yeah, Saint Pete downtown, Thirst Gastro Lounge in Saint Pete on Beach Drive. It’s kind of like a high-end cocktail bar slash fine dining. We serve really Mediterranean food and we have a nice cocktails and we have a good vibe on the weekdays. We have live music every day almost and then we have a DJ on the weekend. We’ve been a business for a four years and we’re doing very good. So if anybody wants to come and visit, welcome. You can not miss it. We have an outside seating area as well, you know, Sidewalk Cafe as well.
Ewelina: Yeah, it’s a beautiful place. Fantastic. Listen Wasim your life is what happens when a person has a long-term plan and it’s diligent and does not you know, you didn’t stand in your own way. And I I think that your life is just a beautiful proof of what happens when we, we keep on pushing ourselves forward. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with my listeners. I am sure that there are some young immigrant entrepreneurs out there that needed to hear exactly what you had shared today. And I really thank you from the bottom of my heart for that wisdom. It was such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much.
Wasim: I’m so happy that I shared my story with you. So happy that if anybody got like, you know, heard my story, and that would be, you know, has an impact positive impact on their life. I would love to hear that and um, you know, with the humility and thank you for, you know, having me. Thank you very much. You know, I’m always always willing to share and help and and support. Thank you very much.
Ewelina: Wonderful. Thank you.
Alright friends. I hope you’ve enjoyed our conversation and hearing Wasim’s story inspired you to keep on excelling in your life. If you are an immigrant you are already very strong. I am here to remind you about that and support you on this journey.
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Thank you so much for listening, I will talk to you next time on December 11th.
The holiday season is almost here and many of you will be spending it once again without your loved ones. We are going to talk about that. It’s not easy, it makes many of us very sad, but we somehow make it work, don’t we. We will explore how to make it easier on ourselves so that we actually enjoy the celebrations.
Have a great day and I will talk to you then.