African Warrior Magazine had the unique opportunity to talk with Dr. Aby Mamboleo about her experience immigrating to the U.S., and her business experience as a successful entrepreneur.
Dr. Mamboleo may have received an award for Entrepreneurship Excellence from Life & Times Media and a bronze award from Stevie Awards for Female Executive of The Year, but when she landed on America’s shores, she came to attend University in order to become a lawyer. As a young girl, she would candidly introduce herself to family guests by saying her full name and add, “lawyer,” like it was her last name. Consequently, she did achieve her childhood dream by graduating with a JD/MBA; however, she found success by being an entrepreneur.
Dr. Mamboleo’s first company was Infinity Quality Services Corporation, which gave her the start to create two sister companies – Quality Medical Professionals (QMP) and Intelligent Staffing Solutions (ISS). QMP was so successful that in 2005 she was able to sell it to a publicly traded company. Currently, she is running ISS until the contracts expire. Through all of her trials and triumphs, she has maintained the belief that in order to succeed as an entrepreneur, one must be fearless and understand that quitting is never an option.
Dr. Mamboleo elaborates on her experiences during the following Q&A with AWM’s Mukurima Muriuki.
Congratulations on your recent award. Could you tell us what it was about?
Sure, it was an award bestowed to me by Life & Times Media for Entrepreneurship Excellence, and I also received a bronze award from Stevie Awards for Female Executive of the Year – Business Services – 11 to 2,500 Employees.
How did getting this award make you feel?
It was an honor and a privilege to get such an award. It’s always nice when you get a nod for your work. I got an opportunity to thank God who gives me life and to thank myself – which is something most people, especially women, are not comfortable doing.
What is “from a millionaire to a billionaire in training?”
MIT- Millionaire in Training was my motto that began when I was still back home in Kenya. This was when I was in my late teens. I accomplished the millionaire goal, hence I can no longer be in training, so now I am a B.I.T – Billionaire in Training. From millionaire to a billionaire in training, you must continue expanding your horizons and resetting once you achieve your goals.
Would you say you are a $ millionaire?
Describe your journey from Kenya to America.
My journey from Kenya to America was long. This is because it started in 1997, and I ended up in America in September 1998. By the time I finished high school in 1996, I had already applied to several colleges in the U.S and received a lot of brochures. We were in constant communication with Eastern University in Pennsylvania and was awaiting the I-20.
My parents were going to accompany me to the U.S. and check me into the school and proceed to their scheduled meetings. However, my I-20 didn’t arrive until after they had already left to the U.S., so we applied to defer my enrollment to the next year. My parents had friends who were Azusa Pacific University (APU) Alumni, and they encouraged my parents to have me apply. We applied, and APU accepted me and sent me an I-20. My Dad and I scheduled an appointment and went to the embassy for the Visa. However, APU had sent me an ESL I-20 which the representative at the embassy thought was inadequate. We had no idea what ESL program was, and she explained this is a program for international students going to school in the U.S. from a non-English speaking country.
Since Kenya is a British colony and all learning instruction is conducted in English, I did not need to attend the ESL program. She was kind enough to write this on my I-20, and she faxed it over to APU & told us to go back when we received a new I-20 with my desired major. We called APU and spoke to the counselor who agreed with the Embassy, and she offered to send me a new I-20 and defer enrollment to the next semester. Since school was about to start soon, she also advised me to take the SAT & TOEFL exams.
One of my Dad’s coworkers had a daughter attending Biola University and told my dad we should apply to it as well. It is a good Christian school. I registered for the TOEFL & SAT and passed those exams and sent the results over to APU and now Biola. Biola sent the I-20, and we booked a visa appointment at the embassy for August 10. On August 7,1998, the US Embassy in Nairobi was bombed. We lived in South B and our bus stop/matatu stage was at Gill House which was across from the US Embassy. On the day of the bombing, I was going to Industrial Area. I got off the matatu at Afya House and boarded another one to Industrial Area as I was going to the Prisons facility in Industrial Area.
I remember hearing this loud bang, which I later came to know was from the embassy bombing, but at that moment I wasn’t sure.
With the embassy gone, there was no way to get a visa. My dad spoke with his coworkers in Uganda and found that the embassy there was open and they scheduled a visa appointment. My mom and I went to Uganda and the morning of the appointment there was a bombing in Sudan. The embassy in Uganda quickly closed before we could get in!
My mom and I went back to Kenya. My dad’s sister, who at the time worked in South Africa, was in Kenya and in her conversations with my dad they decided I could go to the embassy in South Africa to get a visa. If that didn’t work out, I could start my college education in South Africa. My aunt and I traveled to South Africa and went to the embassy where I was given my visa instantly. We left the embassy, and I was booked on a flight to Los Angeles that night as I was already late for school.
Upon arrival at the Los Angeles Airport, I discovered that my luggage was lost so I only had my carry on bag with me. I was finally in America to start school with nothing but the clothes that I was wearing.
What made you migrate?
Well what made me migrate is simple – My folks. I already knew, I was going abroad for further studies once I finished high school. In fact, I almost came to a boarding high school in the USA. It is a college prep school called Principia School in Missouri. The main reason that was no longer an option was because the school is a Christian Science School. I didn’t know what that was at the time, so instead I went to a day school in Kenya and later came to the U. S. for further education.
How was life growing up in Kenya?
Growing up in Kenya was awesome. In hindsight, I really cannot complain.
What ambitions did you have as a young girl?
My ambition as a girl was to be a lawyer. I graduated in 2010 with my JD/MBA, so I get a check mark.
You are a daughter of missionaries. How did this impact your life?
Yes my parents are missionaries. They joined full time ministry in 1986 when I was old enough to see our lifestyle change.
I was in private school – living “the life” and then we had to go to the city council/public school. My brother and I could tell our life had changed.
Watching my parents in full time ministry has impacted my life in that it has taught me to be of service to others. To this day, even as a leader, I consider myself as being in service. It doesn’t hurt that I am in a service industry. I am the CEO of the company, but my definition is different than most. I call myself the Chief Encouraging Officer.
What’s Infinity Quality Services Corporation?
This was the first company I owned in the US. IQ is how I refer to it. I am big on abbreviations.
How was IQS founded and do you still own the company?
It was founded by myself and my then boyfriend, who is now my husband. We settled on this name because it is not limiting, so we could venture into different kinds of businesses. IQ was the parent company that gave birth to Quality Medical professionals (QMP), a medical staffing company, and Intelligent Staffing Solutions (ISS) a clerical staffing company. I no longer own the company. We sold QMP in 2005 to a publicly traded company, and I continued to run ISS until the contracts expired.
What were the challenges you faced when starting out, and what did you do to overcome the obstacles?
The biggest challenge starting out was time and finances. We both could not be in the business full time because we each had bills to pay, and I was still trying to finish my undergraduate degree. Twenty-four hours did not seem enough time to go to school, go to the many jobs that were paying the bills, and still run a business – meet clients, go pick up the payments, exercise, have a social life, and sleep. The time obstacle was overcome by learning to multiply time also the fact that I graduated, and my student job at the school ended. This helped make my other job flexible which helped to multiply time. Finances was fixed by the fact that with more time invested, I was able to grow the business and add contracts.
How easy or difficult is it to be a wife, a mother, and at the same time be a successful entrepreneur?
It’s not easy but it is very doable. Women are generally great at multitasking, so that helps with the juggling. What helps is support and realizing that balancing is basically crap non-existent. People constantly say it’s about balance. That is Bull$h!t It’s about choices- you weigh the options, prioritize, and trust your gut as you make a choice. I have a supportive team and family. And I accept their assistance. My responsibilities as a wife, mother, and businessperson are clear and crisp. I give myself gold stars, but sometimes I must take away gold stars since I am not perfect. I am human. Self-care is a huge priority, so that I can manage everything else. I exercise, go to the chiropractor, and get massages. Also learning to say NO and YES is a huge part of being successful. Especially saying NO and being okay with it.
What’s your advice to Kenyans in America aspiring to be entrepreneurs, and how can they overcome the challenge of raising the seed or capital for starting a business?
My advice is that there is no shortcut. Put in your time do the work. Also, find your own niche. Just because someone you know is doing it well, doesn’t mean it’s also for you. Run your own race. Mitigate risks, get a good insurance, and spend & invest wisely. Separate personal and business accounting. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It’s like being on a roller coaster – you climb high, you drop, there are twists and turns, and you go fast and slow. So, hold on and be prepared. The ride is exciting, exhilarating and exhausting.
Just know that even with all of the planning and preparation, there are going to be curveballs, and twists & turns that will throw you off. However, quitting is not an option. So, aspiring entrepreneurs – be fearless and know that failure is an option, but quitting is NOT an option. Entrepreneurs risk their livelihood for the chance of controlling their own destiny by paying themselves last after all the other people and expenses in the company are paid. Basically, you get paid for your results, not for your activity, not for your time, and not your for your effort. When it comes to the challenge of raising seed or capital, be prepared. Know your business, and basically perfect your elevator pitch. You should be able to explain your business in the simplest terms possible to investors.
How can your skills and experience be leveraged by the Kenyan community in California or America?
Leveraged, mmmh? That is an interesting concept. I am going to answer this question carefully because I don’t want it to come back and bite me. I have learned to be strategic and precise with my words and my time. The only thing I have control over is myself – not others, and I am already leveraging my skills and experience in the Kenyan community in America and in Kenya on my own terms. I have learned to give myself permission to ignore and eliminate doing things out of obligation. In leveraging my skills and experience I use the acronym: GROW
G – Goal Alignment
R – Realistic Possibility
O – Opportunity
W– Way Forward
What book are you currently reading?
Right now I am reading, You are a BADASS: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero.
What is your favorite sport?
I love the track. I have run a few half marathons. I also love watching soccer and basketball.
Which business are you currently working on?
A nonprofit: African Aid Ministry dba: African Aid Mission (AAM)
For Profit: Staff Today Inc (STI)
African Women Enterprise, LLC (AWE)
How can you impact women aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
I don’t know how I can impact them but for starters this is what I have to say to the women –
Please stop using your kids or your family as reasons why it’s not possible for you to be great as an entrepreneur or in your career. They should be the reason why you must excel. Put your kids to work, they may not like it, but you are preparing them for life later. Allow them to make their own mistakes as they work. Anyone who runs a household well runs a business. Get over the fear of saying NO. Stop saying reluctant and uncommitted yes.
Basically, “I don’t really want to but I’m going to…” This kind of yes is not a real yes; it’s a “maybe.” Maybe is horrible, unsure and uncertain. Yes is great, but so is No. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Quit living in maybe. A lot of women are saying No without realizing it because you cannot say yes without saying No. When you say yes to please others, you are also saying no to something else you could be doing with that time. Delegate – don’t do everything on your own (Superwoman). Create an opportunity for others by outsourcing.
Time is the one thing you can never make more of, so I don’t want my life to be defined by what other people want. More importantly, I want my life to have counted for something huge, so I do not want to spend my time on things that ultimately do not matter.
Dr. Mamboleo has an amazing resource book which you can buy on AMAZON