One leading immigrant entrepreneur has some simple (and powerful) advice for other immigrants dreaming of starting their own successful business: Don’t hide your accent.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fortune magazine, Ido Leffler, 38, who has co-founded a trio of businesses: Cheeky, a tableware company, Yes To Inc., a natural beauty-care company, and the school supply brand Yoobi, says that new entrepreneurs need to focus on the bottom line (don’t expect investors to provide funds forever), avoid splurging on flashy office spaces (his first office was a converted mechanic’s workshop) and allow your heritage and uniqueness to shine.
“As an immigrant, you’ve shown fortitude and courage to get this far, and have taken a big chance on yourself to start a new life. That is already a big advantage over your native-born competition.”– Foulis Peacock
“I personally believe that my accent has helped me in business,” said Leffler, who was born in Israel and moved to Australia with his family when he was a child. “It makes you different, and it makes you stand out. So many people try to mask their accent. I think you should be yourself, be articulate and be very observant of the cultures around you. I encourage you to let your accent shine, and it will make you stand out from anyone who’s here in this country.”
Well-known as a serial entrepreneur and angel investor — he just started a high-profile gig as an angel investor in the new Oxygen Channel show Quit Your Day Job — Leffler says his three pillars as an investor are “incredible people, kick ass product and awesome cause,” and for someone who can really drive a business.
“The product they’re creating must be something more than what you can find in the marketplace. It must be truly differentiated from what’s out there. And there must be an awesome cause – we really want founders who can engage from Day 1 in something that can be really meaningful for the community.”
Foulis Peackock, founder of Immigrant Business, echoed the importance of focusing on being truly original in all aspects of your business. “Too often, immigrant entrepreneurs may feel inclined to blend into their community to the point where they lose what’s most unique and appealing about them and their business. Here’s a great reminder that being yourself can be your greatest asset.”
Adds Peacock: “As an immigrant, you’ve shown fortitude and courage to get this far, and have taken a big chance on yourself to start a new life. That is already a big advantage over your native-born competition.”