The story of Buttercloth could be yours, too
America has long been a destination for those hoping to gain something more, whether it be upward mobility, new opportunities or freedom. Many individuals have dreams of coming to America not just to find an exciting job, but to create a career. The story of Buttercloth has humble origins — from a small tailor shop in Vietnam to a Shark Tank sensation menswear brand that has made millions and caught the attention of celebrity advisors including industry titan Robert Herjavec and NBA legend Metta World Peace. It’s an American Dream come true.
This narrative of immigrant entrepreneurship has been supported both by anecdotes and statistics. According to a recent study conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have started 55 percent of America’s billion-dollar startup companies and are leaders in more than 80 percent of these companies. According to another study conducted by the University of Chicago, 80% of Americans believe that they are either living the American Dream or on their way to achieving it. Evolving in its meaning, “The American Dream” no longer refers to being a homeowner with a white picket fence and two or more children. Rather, it has come to reflect an individual’s personal choice. Having the freedom to choose your own path and be whatever you want to be is the true American Dream.
Entrepreneurs from all backgrounds can benefit from the lessons learned in pursuit of the American Dream.
Be Confident In Your Differences
Moving to a new country is difficult. You have to adapt to a new language, a new culture, and a new way of living. You have to embrace these changes because you don’t want to feel like a stranger in your new homeland. The feeling of “imposter syndrome” can start to take a toll. Eventually, however, you realize the need to preserve your own culture and beliefs. It’s OK to be different! After you find that balance, you gain a new, full perspective and your real journey starts. It’s a lot like being an entrepreneur with a new idea. The idea or product must have a fit in the marketplace, but it also needs to be different and unique. You must be confident in the differences that make it special. Similarly, as an entrepreneur, you might feel out-of-place in the business world at first. You might feel pressure to change, but remember to be confident in the qualities that make your personality special, too.
Lean In On Your Family & Friends
Just like moving to a new country with your family makes the transition easier, running a business with support is easier, too. No one person can achieve the American Dream alone. Entrepreneurs should lean on their support system to get their business up and running. Many immigrants looked to their parents for support. Often, parents risk everything to move to a land full of opportunities, to give their children a better life, and want to see their children succeed. Your support system can be family, friends, business partners, or investors — anyone who believes in you and your mission, and is willing to put in the effort. Buttercloth received a plethora of support from family members, enlisting them as the company’s first employees and using a home garage as the brand’s first warehouse. Allowing yourself to lean on others makes the hardships easier, and the successes sweeter.
While family has been a tremendous source of support and encouragement for Buttercloth, as an entrepreneur, you can not only find support and encouragement through networking and connecting with others, but you can also learn from each other. For example, Herjavec, Buttercloth’s investor from Shark Tank, personally identified with the brand’s story, as he is a fellow immigrant. Like the brand’s story, Robert came here from another country, and with hard work and persistence, he has built an amazing portfolio of companies. Today, Buttercloth is proud to call him a business partner and is constantly inspired by him every day.
Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small
Very few startups are able to achieve levels of success; in fact, 9 out of 10 startups fail. While you cannot tell the future, it is crucial to be your own company’s biggest cheerleader. Take the time to celebrate the milestones your team achieves. Since appearing on Shark Tank, Buttercloth has done almost $5 million in sales and sold over 50,000 shirts — all in just about a year. It is common for startups to be so focused on the hustle that they forget to take time to see how far they’ve come. Buttercloth takes pride in recognizing the company’s growth while still looking forward to new horizons.
Ultimately, as an entrepreneur, you’re bound to face challenges, no matter where you’re born or where you live. Whether there are language barriers, cultural misconceptions, or other external factors, the truly successful immigrant entrepreneurs have stopped at nothing to pursue their dream. With a drive for success, a strong support system, and a positive mindset to help you along the way, the American Dream is attainable.
Danh Tran is the founder and CEO of Buttercloth, a menswear company known for its stylish, versatile and soft shirts made with long-fiber cotton. By the age of 10, Tran was designing and sewing his own clothes, and dreaming of coming to America to become a fashion designer. He founded Buttercloth in Los Angeles in Summer 2017, and appeared on Shark Tank in October 2018, earning an investment from Robert Herjavec. Now, Buttercloth has done almost $5 million in sales, and Tran has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and more.