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From Zero to $15 Million - She Believed in Herself - Not the Experts

By Cynthia Kersey
Motivational Expert
Updated: June 27, 2008
The next day, fully scheduled with appointments, she hit the pavement running. In the 1980s a woman engineer was rare and many Latin American businessmen were not used to dealing with women--particularly a petite, young blonde who looked about eighteen years old! She turned what might have been a disadvantage into an advantage by balancing her youthful enthusiasm with education and expertise. Maria Elena said her prospective customers were fascinated by a young woman talking about the latest technology, things they didn't know much about. They responded very favorably because she had a tremendous product, the price was fantastic, and it allowed them to compete with the big guys.

A whirlwind three-week trip through Equador, Chile, Peru, and Argentina followed. In each country, she used the same Yellow Pages approach to market her product. She had projected sales of $10,000 a year and returned to the United States, only three weeks later, with $100,000 worth of orders--prepaid--with cashier's checks in hand. For someone who earned $6 an hour tutoring at the university computer lab, the checks seemed like millions.

Eventually, Maria Elena's sales would be millions--many millions. In the next five years, her sales grew to an astounding $15 million. In 1987, Inc. magazine ranked her company, International Micro Systems, number 55 on its list of the 500 fastest-growing businesses. In 1988, Maria Elena sold the company and stayed on for another three years until sales reached $70 million.

Maria Elena has since started a new company selling computers to Africa. Once again, the marketing experts told her Africa was too poor for personal computer products, especially if they were sold by a non-African female in a male-dominated culture. By now accustomed to negative responses, Maria Elena felt the experts were shortsighted. She believed in her own vision of the future. In 1991, she flew to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, armed only with a catalog of products and a map. She checked into a hotel and picked up the Yellow Pages. Two weeks later, she flew home with $150,000 in orders.

Working first out of her garage, then out of a small warehouse, she began shipping products. More orders came in. In four months, she shipped $700,000 worth of computers. In her second year sales totaled $2.4 million, a figure that doubled the following year, and again the next. With sales averaging $13 million each year through the early 1990s, International High Tech Marketing made Inc.'s list of the 500 fastest-growing businesses. Maria Elena is the only person in the magazine's history to make the prestigious list with two separate companies built from zero capital.
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Maria Elena Ibanez had good products to sell. But her success was built upon belief in herself and determination and there isn't a marketing plan in the world that can give you those.

"Everybody is an expert in giving advice on how

you cannot do something. So forget about everybody. And then, when you encounter a hurdle--and I do that every week--view it as an opportunity, not the end of the world. Do whatever you need to do to get past it quickly. If you believe in your dream, you'll definitely get there."

--Maria Elena Ibanez

ACTION: Maria Elena's example demonstrates the first step to developing an unstoppable belief system. You must take action. By taking even the smallest steps, you are communicating to yourself and to the world that you believe in yourself and your dream.

In the beginning, you may not feel very brave and confident, much less unstoppable. However, by taking consistent action, you will generate the feeling until eventually you are confident, down to the bottom of your soul.

I'd like for you to ask yourself the following question. What is the next step that you need to take to put your dream into motion? Who do you need to call, what resource do you need to acquire? What class do you need to attend? Identify the most important next step, write it down and then do it. If you will follow this simple process every day, or even every week, you will be amazed at the progress you make by focusing on one step at a time.

And remember, the only opinion about your dream that really counts is yours. The negative comments of others merely reflect their limitations --- not yours. There is nothing unrealistic about a dream that aligns with your purpose, ignites your passion, and inspires you to plan and persevere until you attain it. On the contrary, it's unrealistic to expect a person with such drive and commitment not to succeed.
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