At the age of 16, I came to the United States as an exchange student from Mongolia. Determined to stay in the states to get a better education, I enrolled in Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Despite the challenges I faced coming from a middle class Mongolian family, I was able to work part-time and finish college.
Graduation came and I was still in my early twenties eager to explore and venture out. From working at a mining company in Mongolia to enrolling in a graduate program in Costa Rica, I was filled with an insatiable desire to find my passion and see more of the world. My path seemed pretty straight forward until I realized that my graduate study for an International Law Degree at the University for Peace in Costa Rica was not the right path for me.
With no plan on hand, I came back to the U.S., a country that had been a home away from home for me during my college years. I knew it was the right place to return to since it is the land of possibility after all.
From waiting tables to freelancing as a translator, I was getting by and was even able to put aside some money for savings. After a little over a year of this routine, I was able to secure a permanent visa and I had started working for a breakthrough non-profit consulting firm in San Francisco.
Compared to my humble beginnings, I feel like I’ve gone pretty far in my twenties. But what I’ve come to realize is that each of my decisions came with a big risk. Looking back at the chances that I took, it makes me trust that anything is possible with determination, hard work and the resilience to get back up. With that mindset, we can do anything. It was that mindset that pushed me to become an entrepreneur and open up my own company from scratch.
The idea, although just being executed now, has been engrained in me since birth when I would wear handcrafted bags designed by my father in Mongolia. My father has been making handcrafted leather goods in Mongolia since 1996 and every time I’d wear his products, I’d receive compliments from friends and strangers alike inquiring about it. I was proud to wear my father’s intricately designed goods because it was truly unique, ethically made using surplus leather and it made me stand out from the crowd.
With that in mind, I decided to start my own e-commerce venture. To be honest, there was no thorough business plan, marketing strategy, partnership or funding; I just followed my gut and was determined to find a way to make it work. All that mattered was the fact that I knew I had a great product.
From preparation to product launch, this journey has been the greatest learning experience. I feel like a machine – acquiring business licenses and permissions, securing a company name, logo, creating a website, SEO, figuring out logistics, shipping, marketing, copywriting, content editing, photo shoots, customer service, social media presence, and more. Since it’s a one-man-show with no funding, I rely on myself to get all of that done.
It gets stressful and challenging, since I am trying to juggle my brand while being committed to my full time job. I get off from work at 6pm and rush home to open my laptop and work on Anouk & Co. But for the first time in my life, I feel like I have found something I’m passionate about.
Every night and every morning, even when I’m eating or taking a shower, I think about how to grow my business and how to reach more people. I realize that it will take so much sacrifice and determination to be successful, but it would be my greatest accomplishment to make Anouk & Co. a valuable brand and to place my country, which seems otherworldly to many, in the public spotlight. The launch of the website is just the start and there’s a long way to go. It’a going to be a headache, that’s for sure, but a beautiful one nonetheless.