Just a few miles up highway 96 from Beaumont, Texas is the delightful community of Lumberton. I was on a trans-continental bicycle trip this past May when I stopped in Lumberton at Raphael’s a restaurant on Main Street. The only thing better than the food is the story of the proprietors, Raphael and Anna.
Raphael and his wife, Anna, represent all that is great about America. They are living evidence that hardworking people with vision can still achieve the American Dream. Despite starting life in abject poverty, Raphael and Anna established two successful restaurants. They drive new cars and live in a beautiful home with a television in every room. Raphael and Anna are America’s hope.
Raphael was born in El Salvador. By his own report, he and his mother lived in a six foot by six foot cardboard box. They had no hope of escaping their desperate circumstances. Even though he was just a young boy, Raphael worked from sunrise to sunset just to survive. He owned one pair of shoes, a second pair was beyond comprehension. One morning, his mother took him by the hand and said, “We’re going to America.” They left their cardboard box behind and started walking. Raphael’s journey from a cardboard box to successful restaurateur is inspiring and instructive.
There are three distinct lessons for any pursuer of dreams and for every would-be entrepreneur.
- Be enterprising and hard-working
- Educate to elevate
- Be guided by a spiritual inner compass
Be Enterprising and Hard-working
For Raphael, the lessons of hard-work started when he was very young. By age six he was well into a routine of working from sunrise to sunset. He knew that survival meant productive work not just spending time. Entrepreneurs soon learn that punching a clock doesn’t result in a paycheck. As my friend Rudy Vidal recently observed, profit is the measure of value you offer to the market place. For an entrepreneur time must be used productively to provide value.
A self-sacrificing mother, in search of a better life for her son demonstrated the grit and hard work necessary to make her way to the United States with her son in tow. It wasn’t enough to start the journey it took focused work every day to accomplish the dream. Raphael told me that after he arrived in the United States someone told him, “if you want your dreams to come true, don’t go to sleep.” Meaning work hard, work productively.
Educate to Elevate
Not only did Raphael have to learn to be enterprising and hard working, he had to learn the restaurant trade and the business skills. He learned the food industry by working for someone else for more than 26 years! Once he arrived in the United States, Raphael’s journey to successful business person was marked by learning, applying and growing. As he learned more and used what he learned in his work, he became increasingly valuable. He was not satisfied to be a Spanish speaker in America. His dream of entrepreneurial success required him to learn English. His self-imposed requirement of English proficiency accelerated his education. He is a skilled critical thinker. He knows how to analyze and control food and labor costs and he knows how to communicate with his customers and make good decisions based on their feedback. Raphael used education to elevate his situation.
Be Guided by a Spiritual Inner Compass
Researchers Mitchell Neubert and Kevin Dougherty from Baylor University reveal some interesting patterns regarding entrepreneurs and belief in God. It turns out that entrepreneurs pray more frequently than other people. Business owners are more likely to think of God as a personal, interactive being who is interested in them and their problems. For Neubert and Dougherty, “entrepreneurs simply have a more personal view of God than non-entrepreneurs”.
Our nation’s founders were also confirmed in their faith and belief in God. One example is George Washington who said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable”. And “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor”. The Declaration of Independence, The Pledge of Allegiance and The Star Spangled Banner all declare us a God-fearing nation. Entrepreneurs live it.
Raphael and Anna epitomize entrepreneurial belief in God. They speak of God as a trusting parent. God is someone they communicate with regularly in prayer and whom they visit once a week in church. Raphael confided that he opens the door of his restaurant every morning and locks it behind him. He retreats to a table at the back of his establishment where he kneels and prays with gratitude for all that God does for him.
Raphael and Anna represent all that is great about America. The dream is still alive. The ember of hope is kindled by hard work, education and faith. Three great lessons for every entrepreneur with a vision.