Are entrepreneurs born with what it takes to succeed or are they trained to develop and grow the muscles needed for the job?
For centuries, philosophers, psychologists, and other scientists have debated whether nature (genetics) or nurture (environment and upbringing) plays a bigger role in who we are. This timeless debate has been often narrowed down to study the development of people in influential positions like leaders; and today, the question extends to entrepreneurs.
Many theories offer suggestive percentages for how much nature versus how much nurture is at play, but what everyone agrees on is that it’s always a mixture of both. Without the proper honing and crystalizing, inherited traits may never realize their true potential.
At the crossover of nature and nurture, we find many inspiring entrepreneurial stories like Ramez Andrea’s who knew early on that his journey would be off-the-beaten-track.
Seeds Don’t Grow Independently
On the nature end of the argument, it is believed that entrepreneurs owe their success to genetically inherited personal traits, tendencies, and capabilities. However, these genes may be hard to trace back as they manifest differently from one journey to the other; an entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily have to be born into a family of businessmen and women to have the innate drive for trailblazing.
Like many children his age, Ramez grew up in a home where both parents were committed to full-time jobs that revolved around a rhythmic routine between family and office work. To his best knowledge, Ramez thought that’s all there was to the grown-up life; and it just didn’t seem right. This sense of restlessness and dismay at routine urged him to find other paths or even forge new ones if he had to.
Thanks to nature and genetics, this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Inspired by his father who left his family at the age of 14 to study in Cairo, Ramez constantly looked up to his self-made father who managed to achieve a lot without much privilege or help from his family.
“I was always obsessed with being self-made,” says Ramez. “I didn’t entirely succeed at that - [my parents] still bought me a house and a car. But this obsession to make it on my own was always there in the back of my mind since I was young.”
This is where nature steps back allowing nurture to water and grow the genetic seed for independence, problem-solving, and going against the grain if needed. And Ramez certainly watered the seed with creativity and resilience.
As a high school teenager, Ramez felt the need to break free from the constraints of the fixed allowance his parents gave him. So, he started organizing parties and hosting them at rented F&B spaces for an affordable price back when the clubbing scene was quite exclusive.
“I remember sometimes I would make double or triple what my parents gave me in just one weekend. I really enjoyed the extra money which I could spend freely,” recalls Ramez.
In college, Ramez dabbled in online commerce long before it was commonplace by buying watches off Amazon and reselling them on Facebook for much less than what they were being sold for in Cairo. Although this endeavor wasn’t as successful as the nightlife gig, he still managed to make a small profit or at least break even.
For such a young, street-smart hustler, Ramez did not sail smoothly through his undergraduate studies of marketing and business - a journey that he only saw through for his parents’ sake.
“When I was a sophomore, I traveled abroad and I called my parents to tell them I wasn’t coming back. There were nice business opportunities and I didn’t see the need for a degree to do business,” says Ramez. “But this decision broke my mother’s heart so I came back [and finished college].”
Despite Ramez’s continuous hustles, the real world of business awaited him out in the open waters that is life.
Diamonds Form Under Pressure
Dissatisfaction with the status quo and the constant belief that one can do better is a common drive for many entrepreneurs to innovate and eventually start their own businesses. No matter how sincere this desire is, the point of take-off and flying solo has got to be earned with trials and tribulations.
Fresh out of college, Ramez worked in telesales for three months. Demotivated by the rigid system one has to follow as a telesales agent, his underperformance earned him several warnings of expulsion and a severely deducted salary during his first month. However, by his second month, Ramez was selected as the second-highest achieving agent in his unit.
What started off with a passive rebellion soon turned into a challenge to bring the system to his aid. “I used to observe the top achievers and how they spoke on the phone. We used to call customers in the UK on behalf of Vodafone,” says Ramez. “I noticed that the people with the funniest accents made the highest sales and not the ones who spoke fluently. And so I brought about my own style and I started injecting some comedy into my calls by faking funny accents, and it worked really well.”
One month following this turn of events, Ramez was conscripted into the army - a period that took a heavy toll on his emotional and mental health. “For someone who hated school because of all the rules and limitations, imagine how it was like in the draft,” says Ramez. “Six months into my service, it got really depressing.”
During his first visit to Cairo, he bought a dog whom he loved to the point of obsession. To gain a better understanding of his best friend and his needs, Ramez read extensively about dogs until he grew fairly solid knowledge of their diverse needs.
Similar to how the teacher appears when the student is ready, so do opportunities. Ramez’s growing fondness for dogs coincided with his cousin being offered a partnership in a dog breeding farm, and Ramez was willing to do whatever it took to earn his share of the business.
To overcome the obvious concerns about his inexperience, Ramez offered to sell one of the dogs to prove his worthiness of the partnership. After successfully selling it for double the price he was tasked to sell it for, Ramez got what he was after: his first real business experience.
“The farm was more of a learning experience than it was for profit,” says Ramez. “It was the first time for me handling money and making real profit. I had to decide whether to spend it or reinvest it.
“As a teenager, whatever money I made, I spent it right away. But on the farm, there were running costs and I had to put money aside to grow my investment by buying more dogs and introducing more breeds. I didn’t make any profit but it showed me how to do business, how to buy and sell.”
Just as he had taught himself how to sell watches on Facebook in college, Ramez left no stone unturned to understand the craft of community building on social media, meanwhile catering to the taste and needs of the local market. With great content quality, Ramez helped the farm sell far and wide and also gained much-needed experience in the real market.
However, by the end of his draft, he took his newfound knowledge and planted their seeds to grow his private business.
The Thrill of Taking Flight
Applying what had learned on the farm, Ramez used whatever little savings he made during his conscription and started buying dogs cheaply, raising them, and reselling them. At first, his funds were low so he resorted to renting a rooftop and hiring someone to take care of his dogs. By the time this business picked up, he opened his first pet store in Heliopolis, however, with a twist.
For Ramez, the pet store wasn’t solely driven by his keenness on doing business, but by his genuine love for the canines as well. Unlike how pet shops usually display their animals in cages and take very little care of them, Ramez instead picked the location of the store so he can provide them with a backyard where they can play and engage freely.
“This approach wasn’t quite popular and people found it rather appealing. We weren’t the fanciest store but we were the most pet-friendly,” says Ramez.
Fueled by the mutual love for animals and business, Ramez managed to expand the business into a second branch, a comprehensive vet clinic, and a private farm. However, another opportunity to realize his lifelong dream of owning a restaurant called, and Ramez, being the adaptable pivoting entrepreneur that he is, answered.
Stay tuned for the second part of Ramez Andrea’s story to find out all about his journey with Burdogz.