Blog | Entrepreneurship

Tales of a Real World Startup

A relentless attitude and hard lessons learned will get you farther than blissful enthusiasm

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While we were enthusiastic about building our rehabilitation centers, it didn’t come without some serious roadblocks and obstacles to overcome.

The biggest problem we ran into was securing the money for the rehabilitation center itself. How were we supposed to get financing secured until we knew where we wanted to build it? Needless to say, we were able to secure our financing but not without a lot of… waiting.

In my previous blog, I explained how Lisa and I tightened our finances by adhering to the Plan to Be Secure, or PBS, system. We took the basic elements of Robert and Kim’s Pay Yourself First philosophy and morphed it into a plan that better suited our needs.

Though we didn’t have much money, we had developed a strong sense of stewardship over what we did have. This was vitally important as we began to approach banks for loans.

We felt like we had a good grip on our financial needs. Before meeting with the first bank on our list, we spent the next two days pouring over anything we could get our hands on about the addiction treatment industry and our target market. We knew the banks wouldn’t be fond of our current financial situation, so we figured we could compensate for it with our passion, industry knowledge, and thorough understanding of financial statements and balance sheets. Surely that would seal the deal.

Prepare for reality

We were cautiously optimistic. We weren’t deceiving ourselves about our situation but we felt good about our chances. We walked through the bank lobby, appropriately dressed with the plan in hand, and asked to speak to a loan officer.

Despite our efforts to small talk, the loan officer only had two questions for us: Where did we go to college, and which one of us was a treatment officer?


The only school we graduated from was that of hard knocks, and unless the loan officer considered the listening I performed as a bartender on a nightly basis to my clientele as “treatment counseling,” then no, we didn’t have what they were looking for.

With utter condescention in his voice he referred us to the Small Business Administration loan program, wished us well, and bid us a good day.

We were crushed, frustrated and angry… at the bank and at ourselves.

We knew we were going to be in for a tough fight, we just didn’t expect it to be that tough for as long as it took.

It took time but with each rejection, we got savvier. Instead of feeling down on ourselves, we learned the banker’s language. We learned to say what they wanted to hear. Failure can be a merciless teacher, but a teacher it most definitely is. And thank goodness because a teacher is exactly what we needed.

After visiting countless banks, filing out hours of paperwork, and repeatedly being told, “No,” we admitted defeat to the banking industry.

It was time for a different approach: private or foundational donors.

Surely there was someone out there that would understand our mission. Surely there was an organization or foundation that would want to help fund a business by a Vietnamese woman. Sadly, there wasn’t.

All we found were sources that had red tape or that had strings attached that contradicted our desire for freedom.

Asking Lisa’s family resulted in a dead end.

It was time to ask my father for some advice.

He had been very helpful when I previously had asked him for assistance. As you may recall, he’s also the person who introduced us to Robert Kiyosaki and Rich Dad through his Choose to Be Rich program many years previous.

But this time it wasn’t as easy as hitting play on our CD player. His advice resulted in finding our money but it wasn’t fun. It involved multiple meetings with a grizzled, privately wealthy individual who lived in a trailer park.

Be sure to check next month’s post when I explain exactly how we chose our location and secured our startup capital.

If you can’t wait, and want to learn more about how we secured our financing, grab a copy of our book The Social Capitalist.

Original publish date: February 25, 2019

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