Solanges Vivens is living proof of her message: Nothing should stand in your way to success.
Speaking at UMGC’s Women’s History Month program, Vivens, the author of “Girls Can Move Mountains: Rewriting the Rules of Female Entrepreneurship,” emphasized that discipline is required for women to succeed in business.
She described how she arrived in the United States from Haiti in 1965 at the age of 19. She had been raised in an impoverished family. She spoke no English and was living with her sister in the Bronx.
Yet by 1988, not only had she pulled herself up from garment factory and nanny jobs, she had earned a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, and a Master’s degree in Health Services Management and had formed Vital Management Team, Long Term Care, Inc., better known as VMT Long Term Care, Inc.
Turning that into a multimillion-dollar business, Dr. Vivens became a leader in the long-term health field, but has since changed directions to form the Vivens Media Group, a multimedia company generating entertainment content through books, short films, podcasts and feature films.
So how did she do it?
When she left Haiti to fly to New York City, “I thought there were money trees — m-o-n-e-y-t-r-e-e-s – at the airport, and once you land in America, you became rich and very rich at that.” That’s what everyone in the Caribbean thought, she said.
“What I did not know, however, was that you had to work hard, very, very, very hard, in order to make it in America,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, I made it in America only because hard work is not a prerequisite to dying.”
But along with hard work, she said, you have to believe in your success and not let anything stand in your way.
“Everything in life is attainable, if you want it, if you need it that badly, you’re going to get it,” she said. “You just have to be hungry for it. You just have to see it.”
Education is the prerequisite, she said. You have to invest in yourself, not the stock market.
“You need to set your goals,” she said. “You need to fight distractions by staying focused. Don’t wait for someone to believe in you, because you first have to learn to believe in yourself in order for others to believe in you.”
Life is a series of mountains, she said, and the first one can be the hardest to climb.
“You see the mountain so big, and you say, my God, there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this,” she said.
If you say that, she said, you are condemned to failure.
“But if you look at the mountain, and you say, I’m gonna go up there. I believe,” then you will succeed.
The problem, she said, is when you have endured the pain to get to the top of the mountain, you see there’s another mountain. You have to overcome your pain and doubts and head for the next mountain.
“Only by climbing will we know the treasures on the other side,” she said.
What was her advice to young women entrepreneurs?
“I would say to my little sisters, I would look them in the eye and say, ‘Ladies, remember the one thing we have. It’s our name. Don’t allow anyone to tarnish it. And when they do, fight it with all your mind. Your business depends on it.’”