When I was studying in the United States, I was among a few young African people at the University and I’d often feel sorry for myself. One day, the Dean’s secretary approached me and gave me the following piece of advice, which I’ve never forgotten. She said, “Never assume that your past circumstances need to define your future.
Your future lies in hard work. You’re working hard now to build the future that you want, and in the future you will need to continue to work hard to achieve your goals.”
That really resonated with me. I realised that I could make my life and my future anything I wanted it to be if I developed a strong work ethic and put in the long hours. It was liberating – and it’s something I’ve taken with me throughout my career.
When I graduated there was a large amount still owing on my fees account, so while everyone was getting ready for graduation I was trying to get the money together to pay it. But then the Dean came to me and told me my account had been settled. I suspected that this lady had paid it but when I approached her she never admitted it. She simply said, “Pay it forward, Hepsy.”
That’s what I’ve tried to do. My position at SAB has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to help other young people grow. And I pay her advice forward too. I believe the most important thing for young start-ups is to work hard, and not to look for profits immediately. The profits and reward follow dedication and hard work.