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I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Ismael Sidi, millionaire e-commerce mogul and NGO owner, to discuss how his post-graduate unemployment inspired him to use his entrepreneurial eye to find success.
In your own words, Ismael, what’s your story? How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in Petroleum engineering [and] worked part time for NASA as an undergraduate. The year I graduated, the price of Crude oil had decreased by 48% in 10 months. I never found a job. My father paid for my education out of pocket, over $80k, and here I am with no job, a degree with no more value and no other means to help my parents pay for my siblings’ education.
$80K might not sound like a lot of money, but where I’m from, Niger, in West Africa, people live with under $1/day. For 18 months I was looking for a job desperately and felt ashamed of myself, being the oldest child. I’m 25 years old with no income or career.
I never felt like giving up because I’ve always known that it wasn’t about “me”. When you come from one of the poorest countries in the world and have the opportunity to do great and give back, giving up isn’t an option. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind. I started selling drawings I made of Dragon Ball characters at school back in 1997; I was six years old. In 2017, I decided to learn all I could about E-commerce. That first year I made 260k, the second year I made $1.4M, and I’m on track to make $5M this year. The biggest success for me was being able to send my little brother to college in Canada and starting a NGO back in Niger to help sponsor entrepreneurs.
That’s truly an impressive leap to make from unemployed to millions! You should be proud of your self-made success. I’m sure these big changes only opened more doors for you in your career. Can you tell us a little bit about what you learned from these experiences and what drove you along the way?
Procrastination is what slows me down, personally. I’m comfortable with fear and hardships because I know they’re temporary. I guess having a champion mindset is key for me.
My father taught me how to be a man, have core values and principles that I’ll never violate, take responsibility, and take care of people. My mother is the reason I have a strong Emotional IQ (EQ) because of how much she genuinely cares for people and taught me how to be selfless. Finally, my wife, who supported us when I was financially broke and couldn’t help pay for our rent or food back in Jacksonville, FL. She believed in me; that’s all I needed. I made my first million at 27, a year after I started e-commerce. I’m proudly supporting my family who is back in my home country (Niger) in West Africa. I own an NGO that sponsors young African entrepreneurs and am currently creating a business incubator in Niger.
Wow, that certainly is an exceptional feat as an entrepreneur. And you get to help other entrepreneurs, too! Congratulations again on this enormous success. And for the readers, do you have any final advice you’d like to offer?
If you wake up excited every day to live the day, then you’re successful. Success is not a universal metric; however, it is directly correlated with happiness. You can’t be successful if you’re unhappy. When the odds are against you, outwork them.