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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

Business Time: Fourth of July Edition

July 02, 2014

It’s Wednesday, which means just one thing—it’s Business Time! Below, Sarah LaFleur, CEO of MM.LAFLEURshares what’s on her mind this week.

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If you read my post from last year, you’ll know that Independence Day is a particularly meaningful day for me. As an American who grew up abroad and moved to the U.S. for college, I often see our country through an immigrant’s eyes. Now that I’ve started a business, I’m especially aware and grateful for the ways in which the U.S. makes it easy to be an entrepreneur.

What?! Building a business in New York is easy? Well, no. But relative to what entrepreneurs face in other countries, I feel lucky to be an American business owner. I recently had drinks with a friend who’s starting a company in a country where bribery is a standard part of doing business. He recounted the hoops he went through to find just the right whiskey to bring the local government official. His story made me feel lucky that I get to focus my energy on the aspects of business that really matter—like how to manage our cash flow, or how to make it up to a customer whose order we didn’t get quite right.

Miyako and Sarah discussing design in our Manhattan studio. 

The term “ease of doing business” is one you’ll usually only find in dry reports from the World Bank, but I feel it daily; it’s real. In Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa, it costs 58% of the average Nigerian’s annual income just to register a new business. I think I paid $75. In Japan, where I grew up, it takes a minimum of 22 days and eight procedures just to open a business. It took me five days—all I had to do was fill out a downloadable form, and I was off to the races.

The difference between five and 22 days may not seem like much, but in the three years I’ve spent building MM.LaFleur, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily the huge challenges, but rather the accumulation of small ones, that can chip away at your entrepreneurial drive.

Sarah and our sample sewer at our factory in NYC’s Garment District.

There are many factors that have allowed me to start a business (a good education, a supportive family), but this Fourth of July, I feel especially lucky to live and work in a country that, despite its many problems, gives so many of us the chance to explore our entrepreneurial potential and build businesses of which we can be proud.

Happy Independence Day to all!

– Sarah

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