A Lesson in Entrepreneurship from My Mom

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SamsonWilliamsBy Samson Williams, Chief Strategy Officer, CoFunder

“Do you make $12k a month? Then shut up til you do.”

The smell of frying tortillas and cumino seasoned ground beef led me to the kitchen. Where I walked into a conversation with my mom and her friend discussing business. My mom was flipping tortillas with fork skills that only come from a lifetime spent in the kitchen, as her friend wove a tale of woe so familiar to entrepreneurs. Since I was there and being a grown ass man of 24 years old, college educated and such, my mouth was open and the words came out faster than the roll of thunder from a lightning strike. I forget exactly what I said but my mom’s reply pretty much changed my life from that moment on, “Do you make $12k a month? Then shut up til you do”.

As we move into 2017 with some of us focusing on making America great again and others making America better, I found myself preoccupied with the norms of startup life and entrepreneurship. Clients, customer acquisitions cost and scale. For a moment, I was going to be overwhelmed and thought, “I’m gonna call my mama.” Then it struck me how awesome she is. I mean this happens on a semi-regular basis but it was super poignant at this moment. I apologize for the American Dream Segway but it’ll make sense in a few.

My mom is Mexican born in the 1950s in Watts, California. Not LA, Los Angeles, or the Valley, but Watts. She lived there at the height of American exceptionalism — segregation, “No Niggas, Mexicans or Dogs” signs, the assassination of MLK, the Watts riots, crack cocaine epidemic, Crips v Blood — you know, the Golden Age before it was cool to be Mexican. The American Dream saga later, my mom caught her “big” break when I was 13 years old. She was 42, a mother of 4 amazing kids, and got a job as the secretary at a construction firm in Miami, Florida. As an adult I now realize the racism, sexism, a whole lot of “isms” and hardships that my mom overcame to rise from secretary to VP and co-owner, all 5’2, four college credits to her name (she got all “A” s in her secretarial and short hand classes) and those badass children of hers.

So, when she asked me a decade ago if I made $12k a month, its strikes me now. She wasn’t really asking me to validate the dollar figure — but to hold my tongue til I knew what it took to make a single dollar in one’s own business. Cause trust and believe you may not think $12k or $144k a year is a lot…til that is the salary you pay yourself from your business. How many millions do you have to make to be able to pay yourself a salary of $144k a year?

I had witnessed my mom get up at 4 am, every day for decades, drive thru Miami traffic so bad that I’ve moved to DC to avoid it, to put in 15–18 hour days, 6 days a week. I only now appreciate that she took Sundays off just to do stuff with me. We once went fishing on a boat during a hurricane warning, cause that was her only free day. So, though I refused to pick up the knowledge she was putting down at the time, having paid the iron price for that wisdom now, I share them with you — to save your pound of flesh:

  • Effort isn’t rewarded. Dedication is. Don’t give up on your dreams cause your dreams don’t give up on you.
  • Plan. Execute. If you fail, tweak the plan and try again.
  • Believing you can do something is as important as the ability to do it. Then Nike that crap and “Just do it”.
  • When times get dark, call your mama. If you don’t have a mama, call mine: 954–361–4722. Note — she may be retired but she’s still a hustler and bills by the quarter hour.
  • Together, we can make America great.

Bonus — This stuff is hard! Being an entrepreneur is like being a single mother. You find yourself having to do everything all by yourself, 24 hours, 7 days a week. There are no directions. When you make plans, life screws them all up, you don’t know who you can trust because everybody has free advice and the first few months make you question every decision you’ve ever made in your life. And then there is still a 90% chance of your company failing…despite your best efforts. See, you may need to call my mama after all.

Love you Mexican!

About the Author: “Don’t ask me how I succeeded. Ask me how I recovered from failure. Success only sets you up for failure. While failure can teach you how to be successful.” Samson is a classically trained anthropologist and accidental finance expert who is happy to share the life lessons he’s paid the iron price for. Highlights of Samson’s career:

  • Currently Chief Strategy Officer of CoFunder, an Ireland based VC FinTech firm specializing in providing crowdfunded (P2P) financing to startups and small businesses in Northern Ireland, the EU and UK and expanding operations to USA and Africa in 2017
  • Prior to joining CoFunder, Samson spent 2008 – 2016 at Fannie Mae as Emergency Manager / Baby Chief of Staff O&T Executive Office; blocking, tackling, putting out fires and babysitting executives
  • Samson is an expert in banking and finance operations, organizational change management and a thought leader in equity crowdfunding, alternative banking and social good
  • Fluent in Irish, Legalese, Corporate Speak and discerning the slow “no” between the BS
  • 3x Marine Corps Marathon finisher and running enthusiast, who prefers to spend his weekends fishing, playing chess, and sipping tequila

Samson graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Cultural Anthropology and holds a Masters in Emergency & Disaster Management from American Military University.  Samson’s most valuable educational asset is his common sense and pompoms, which he employees regularly to cheerlead and champion people to success.

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