The insecurities and threat of failure is constantly top-of-mind for many small business owners. Instead of running away from them, run toward it and trust in your convictions to power through.
As I’m sure any fellow small business owner knows, coffee is something we consume when we’re tired, overwhelmed, underwhelmed and frankly, bored. Coffee is a comfort consumable, and if we were able to have an IV of it to get through the late night work sessions, we’d probably take it.
I’m not an advocate for hustle culture, but it’s certainly something ingrained in me as a child of immigrant parents. Hustle culture can be mentally exhausting, and often, you end up beating yourself up over not achieving someone else’s definition of “success.” Immigrants, like my parents, didn’t have any choice but to hustle. However, as a millennial growing up in Canada, my choices looked very different.
Starting a coffee brand definitely wasn’t what I had in mind when I was growing up. Coming from an immigrant family who escaped war and terror in Vietnam, all you would hear at home is “go to university! be a doctor! be a lawyer!” I was conditioned to think that those types of careers were the only way to become successful and ensure a happy and stable future.
I don’t blame my parents at all for thinking this way. They never had a chance to go to elementary school, let alone university. They wanted to guide me in the direction of their idea of stability — a future that wouldn’t require the struggles they had to go through coming to Canada, not knowing any English or having “desirable” skills.
So, I did what I was told and went to college for AutoCad Drafting and Design and completed an 18-month diploma program. I furthered my education by attending a 2-year Interior Design program and spent an entire semester practicing drawing straight lines because we were advised we needed to know how to draw blueprints without a ruler. Then there was that class about the history of colour. Needless to say, I was uninspired and unmotivated. I knew it was time to pursue a career I was passionate about, so I started a business focusing on the one item I spent most of my days purchasing — coffee!
While most of my friends and cousins continued their education in either college or university, I spent seven months sourcing LAM Beverages’ coffee and packaging, and planning the e-commerce site, freight, and launch of the brand. I kept my head down and didn’t tell anyone about my idea. Not because I thought someone would steal my idea (every second there’s someone somewhere in the world probably thinking of your business idea), but because I didn’t want anyone to sway me from launching my business. I didn’t want to hear any negativity. I wasn’t doing what was considered normal in anyone’s eyes. I knew I just needed to launch and roll with the punches.
On September 21st, 2020, I launched LAM Beverages. A few hours went by and there were no sales. I was getting worried. Did I plan incorrectly? Did I hype up my audience enough before launching? Is this why my parents told me to go to med school? I closed my laptop and decided to focus on other things. By the end of the day, I received my first 10 sales. I was overjoyed!
It still wasn’t the right time to tell my parents yet. I knew that if I told them about LAM Beverages, they’d ask me if I’d be confident surviving off a paycheque from the business — and I wasn’t even thinking about taking a paycheque for the first year. I needed to reinvest every penny I made back into the business, so the answer would have been, “no, I cannot survive solely off of the business at the moment.” I kept my full-time job instead and put in full-time hours for LAM Beverages as well.
After the first month flew by, I began to feel comfortable telling friends and family about LAM Beverages. I was honestly scared to let anyone know about my business until I had valid social proof. Most importantly, I didn’t want to disappoint or embarrass my parents. I didn’t want them to know that I had spent the past seven months planning a business that might’ve turned out to be a failure.
In East Asian culture, unfortunately, it’s very common to compare your children to another child’s success. We don’t talk about this enough because it’s taboo, but it’s a terrible and incredibly uncomfortable experience. I didn’t want to be that child who didn’t go to university AND had a side gig that flopped who my parents’ friends would use to compare their child to. I wanted to make my immigrant parents proud. I wanted them to know that everything they’ve done to come to Canada and provide for their family had worked — that we are now living the Canadian dream: happy, safe, healthy, pursuing our dreams (whatever that may be), and trudging steadily toward our goals.
Fast forward a year later, my parents are happily involved; they occasionally accompany me to my trade shows and assist me with unpacking my inventory, packing my orders, and helping me with anything I need. I love being able to discuss my business with my parents every week and get their opinion on new product samples. I love being able to share this entrepreneurial journey with them.
I realized this fear that I had about being a disappointment to my parents was solely my own reflection of myself. I thought I wasn’t confident that I would do well in their eyes. This was a self-defense mechanism I had created in my own head. It wasn’t because the business wasn’t doing well, it was because it wasn’t doing well enough in my own eyes.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your family and friends don’t expect it to be. Trust in the process and believe in yourself. That is all that matters.