The secret of success of Said Hussein

Success means having impact on the lives of other people

25 April 2018

Said Hussein was just a kid when he and his family left Somaliland and settled down in Denmark. Said thought he was a regular Danish boy, but was soon confronted with the fact that he was growing up in a society that wasn’t his. He became rebellious and caused a lot of trouble. But today he is a successful international entrepreneur. Read his amazing story below.

Q: When did you realize you were not a typical Danish boy?

“I always felt at home in Denmark. I was seven years old when I moved there, and I learned the language quickly. It felt like home. But when I was fourteen, I started noticing that I had to deal with things other Danes didn’t have to deal with. There was a lot of racism in public spaces, people knew I was from another country and all publicity in the media about the homeland and fellow refugees was very negative.

Suddenly I felt like a stranger in the country that I had always considered as my home. All teenagers have difficulty fitting in and deciding what they want in the future, but on top of that I also had to deal with racism and not feeling welcome in my own country.

So I did what every angry teenager does: I rebelled. Working hard at school seemed useless. I saw that it was hard for Somalis to get a job in Denmark, so why would I bother and get an education? My family members had problems finding jobs and those who did work, didn’t get a good salary. It felt like I didn’t get a fair chance in society, like I was an outsider. I desperately needed guidance, a mentor. But there were hardly positive role models in the first-generation Somalis in Denmark.”

Q: How did you overcome this?

“When I was sixteen, I visited Somaliland. I met friends I played with when I was a kid. Just like me, they were teenagers. But a lot of them were married and had to take care of their family. They lived like grown-ups and had to deal with adult problems. My problems in Denmark seemed futile when I saw what my friends in Somaliland had to deal with.

Every year, I went back to Somaliland. I became involved in projects to help restore the country and I helped my family a lot. At the same time in Denmark, I met an amazing teacher, who was also a Somali. He helped me with my homework and motivated me to do the right thing. I started reading and writing a lot. It broadened my horizon and I started seeing possibilities for my future.

Even though my grades were improving, my school advisor still treated me as someone without a bright future. I wanted to go to the gymnasium, but she said that I should aim lower. If I did my best, I could become a trash collector.

Her comments made me angry. And I used my Somali pride to prove her wrong. I volunteered, started homework groups and I became a role model in my school. At the end of the year, I had the highest score on the final exam and Danish press wrote positive stories about me. From a problem child, I turned in to the poster boy for young Somalis.”

Success is measured by the impact you have on other lives. How many peoples’ lives have you changed? If you help a thousand people, they in return will help you. This is not about gaining material wealth, but about helping people with the realization of their ideas and building a better live for themselves

Said Hussein

CEO of Somadvice

Q: What is your mission?

“I want to rebuild Somaliland and give back to Denmark.

When I was still in the university, I started working for the Copenhagen municipality as a cultural advisor and had a job with the Somali Diaspora Organisation. Both of these jobs helped me to improve the situation of Somalis in Denmark and Europe.

When my family fled to Denmark, there were hardly any positive role models and there was a lot of negativity about us in the press. We’ve managed to add more truth to our visibility and lobbied for good representation of Somalis in the media.

In 2015 I started the company Somadvice. The goal of this company is to help Danish companies to start doing business in the horn of Africa. The economic growth in Africa has attracted Chinese and Arabic companies, but a lot of Europeans are having trouble getting in. There are a lot of things happening right now in Africa. People from the diaspora are returning, bringing European education and work experience with them.

I am spreading Danish values, knowhow and competence. I owe a lot to Denmark and I want to give back to the Danish by changing the environment for European investors and companies in Africa. There are a lot of chances for Danish entrepreneurs there.”

Q: What is your definition of success?

“In Somaliland the poor are very poor, and the rich are very rich. This needs to change and we can really learn a lot from the Danish welfare state. Success is a strange concept. For Somalis, success is tied with material possessions and money. You need to have a big house and a lot of resources. People measure your success by what they see. If they see you driving a small car, they don’t think you’re successful. In Denmark, a millionaire rides a bicycle to work.

For me personally, success is measured by the impact you have on other lives. How many peoples’ lives have you changed? If you help a thousand people, they in return will help you. This is not about gaining material wealth, but about helping people with the realization of their ideas and building a better live for themselves.”

Q: What advice can you give newcomers who are struggling?

“You are not the first person going through this. It is difficult to rebuild your life, but millions of people have gone before you and millions will come after you. Look back into history. Every society deals with bad times. During World War One and Two, Europeans also had to flee their countries.

Don’t look at yourself as a failure because some people tell you to. It is your choice. You can choose to be successful. Let people say whatever they want, it is not up to them to decide who you are. You need to know what you want to achieve and stay committed until you reach your goal. No one else is going to do it for you.

You can compare it to looking in the mirror in the morning right after you wake up. Your hair is a mess, you haven’t washed your face. If you go outside like that, people won’t be impressed. But if you brush your teeth, fix your hair and put on a good outfit, you look completely different. People will see you and be impressed.  Life works just like this. You get to decide how you want to present yourself to the world. You choose for yourself.”

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