For Monica Phromsavanh, CEO and founder of Modabox, the reception of immigrants and refugees is an issue that hits close to home--literally.
She was born and raised in a Laotian refugee camp in Argentina, surviving a childhood of hunger and hardship.
Phromsavanh arrived in the United States at 17 with no education and no English. Like many other immigrants, she got by on low-end jobs that paid very little. She learned voraciously and took advantage of every opportunity that came her way, soon landing jobs in retail. Then, with just $200 in her pocket, she struck off for New York in 2006.
After a ten year career in Retail, Phromsavanh founded her second business Modabox -- a multi-million-dollar success with thousands of clients. An e-commerce shopping service for women, Modabox delivers fully coordinated outfits curated by expert stylists and based on recommendations generated by custom technology. (Moda means fashion in Phromsavanh's native Spanish.)
Interestingly, immigrants are responsible for creating some of the most successful American companies. A study conducted by the Partnership for a New American Economy finds that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were launched by immigrants or their children.
Phromsavanh says she was able to overcome the challenges of pursuing entrepreneurial success in a new country by following four core principles--concepts that will serve you well no matter who you are and how you work:
Curiosity. Integrating with a new society means constantly learning about everything around you--the people, the culture, the language and the places. For Phromsavanh, that same drive led her to spend countless hours learning everything about the business sector she planned to join. Never stop being curious; never stop learning and finding answers.
Persistence. Early on, the language barrier was an overwhelming obstacle. With unwavering persistence, Phromsavanh saw it as a challenge that made her work more difficult but not impossible. Obstacles and challenges were a constant, but eventually her will made a way. Never lose sight of your goals and never give up on finding a solution to achieve them.
Grit. At some point, persistence turns into something even stronger. Phromsavanh faced rejection, failure and countless obstacles on her way to success. She continued to endure and met every challenge by improving her business model until she began achieving her goals--a process that took years of refusing to give up.
Gratitude. Making it to the top is never a solo adventure. Phromsavanh's support system helped keep her going with ideas, expertise, advice and encouragement. She's since repaid their loyalty by making sure they know how grateful she is to them.
We should all recognize the gifts that Monica Phromsavanh and others like her bring with them to their new homes. For any government to ban such brilliant, game-changing people from entering and flourishing, and inspiring others to do the same, is an unthinkable loss.
If you're interested in learning more, go to the Immigrant Learning Center's online Immigrant Hall of Fame and read these profiles of 29 other immigrant entrepreneurs, from Alexander Graham Bell to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, whose companies collectively produce more than $1.1 trillion a year in revenue.