For generations, immigrants have come to the United States in search of a better life. It can be difficult, but it’s even more challenging for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Here’s the story of a young lady who came to learn English in hopes of improving her career prospects upon her return back home, but in the end gained so much more.
When Sirintip (Beau) Pramnoi moved from Thailand to the United States, owning a restaurant and making a life for herself and her children were far from her thoughts and dreams.
As a humanities graduate with a minor in guide and tourism from Srinakharinwirot University, Beau had aspirations to improve her English fluency in an effort to secure a tour guide position back in her homeland.
Luck smiled upon her when she found an opportunity through a family who offered to host her, so she could pursue her goals. “I was 23 when I moved to the United States. I was ready for change, I was ready to see the world, to travel, excited to come to the U.S. I was thinking it will give me a better life, a better opportunity,” says Beau. She made plans, packed her bags, and set off to the unknown in her international odyssey.
The first location she visited in the U.S. was New York, since her flight was delayed by a day. She decided to take in the city, but quickly realized that the Big Apple was hard to swallow on a limited budget; she feared she would not be able to make it in the states financially, and became discouraged.
After this initial scare, she set off to her final destination, hoping she had made the right decision. Soon after, she met her new stateside family, who helped her feel a renewed sense of optimism in Michigan, where she enrolled at Schoolcraft College to follow her path.
She babysat to make ends meet and eventually started working at a nail salon, where she would work for many years and secure funding for her future venture ten years after her arrival in the U.S. Unfortunately, those next ten years would not come easily; there were many challenges she would have to overcome.
After two years of school, she became pregnant with her first daughter and kept it a secret from her family for eight months out of fear she would disappoint them. Feeling alone and afraid in a foreign land, she fathomed the courage to share the news with her parents, who she describes as close, loving, and supportive; they stood by her side.
Beau then became pregnant with her second child from a failed relationship. “In reality, no guy is going to take care of you, you need to educate yourself, be better, not just depend on men. I always teach my kids, you have to work hard, save money, be financially independent, so you can support yourself,” she adds.
Adjusting to motherhood meant she had to re-evaluate and change her priorities. Despite these unexpected circumstances, she still received two associate degrees in both science and art.
After achieving this goal, her interest in business led her to enroll at Eastern Michigan University, where she is currently two courses away from completing a degree in business entrepreneurship. “I decided to study business,” says Beau. “I love marketing, accounting, personal finance, I learn a lot from that. It’s helped me out a lot with my business.”
In Thailand, Beau grew up with two younger brothers and a sister. Her father worked for the government, while her mother stayed at home to care for the children. She grew up with traditional values and a mentality to strive for more through hard work — a lesson that’s still relevant to this day.
As Beau adapted to her new life, she started saving all her money, continued her business studies, and got a second job at a local Thai restaurant. She learned every skill she could and used it to her advantage.
Over the course of the following years, Beau focused solely on her children, classes, and work. She spent seven days out of the week earning her cash and set herself a new goal — to own a restaurant.
“Everything I do, I have to think ahead of time...You have to be smart [with] how you spend money. I buy something I need, not something I want,” Beau says.
It’s this type of thought process that keeps her strong and capable of achieving her goals; she did just that when she provided half of the cost of the restaurant she owns today: Siam Square.
The other half was made possible through the support of her family. “Work hard, earn it. If you’re lazy, you won’t get it. Work hard, try to set the goal. Set the goal for each day. I set up a goal every morning..'I want to complete this…' No regrets, if you don’t finish, start fresh the next day,” she explains.
Beau’s persistence is evident and palpable. Her previous employer had been planning on retiring after hiring her at the restaurant and admired her work ethic. Little did she know that her predecessor had been grooming her due to her tenacity and passion for the business.
When she decided to sell the restaurant, there was no question she would offer Beau to take over her legacy, as she cared for the business as if it had been her own all along. She and her brother took over soon after.
“To become a successful entrepreneur is hard. For me, I do things with love. If I don’t put love into it, it won’t be a success. You have to put your heart into it. If you do something with your heart, you will succeed,” says Beau. “I love what I do. I love to represent my culture. After work at the salon, I come here. I pour love into every detail. I want to represent my culture. You come, you feel like you’ve come to Thailand.”
When asked if she had set any new plans for herself and the business, she replied, “I want [Siam Square] to be the number one Thai restaurant in Ann Arbor. My biggest goal is to make this restaurant successful. I want a second location. In two years, I’ll find something.”
On a personal note, she added that she’s currently saving up to buy a house so her daughters can have a home. No doubt she will accomplish both feats sooner than later!
Similar to many business owners, Beau faces daily challenges such as finding and retaining good employees. Business taxes are another topic for discussion.
On the other hand, the restaurant has a lot of regular customers and there’s a lot of history that keeps people coming back. “People here are so nice, you don’t even expect it,” she shares as a reason attributable to her continued business success.
We asked Beau how she’s able to maintain her work-life balance, since she works twelve-hour shifts daily between the salon and restaurant. She admitted to finding it challenging, but with support from friends and family, she’s able to execute it flawlessly. “Being a single mom, trying to work and take care of [kids]...My mom visits for about six months out of the year. Comes to help with my kids because she knows I work so much.”
She explained her morning and night routine with her daughters, and has them come by the restaurant on their days off from school and daycare, so they can share quality time. “Balancing my kids, restaurant, it’s hard, but I just want to achieve my goal. I want the business to be successful. I want to provide for my kids. My kids are validation that I can be a better mom, a better person. My kids are motivating me the most. Family is important because they’re there for me no matter what.”
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to try to work in the business first to know what it entails. She recommends talking to people to learn more and to approach every day with new goals.
“It doesn’t just require money, you have to have knowledge for business. Reality and what you learn is different, but at least you should have a basic knowledge of business and management.” She adds that support from others is important, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Try to learn every single day. Don’t think too much. Go by day. Some days I still have stress, but that’s okay, I just keep going.”
One of Beau’s latest accomplishments pertains to the University of Michigan, where her restaurant, Siam Square, has been selected to be on the list of catering services for events at this prestigious institution. “If the University of Michigan needs Thai food for events, they will order from us,” she adds with a smile.
Beau is a true example of an entrepreneur who overcame various obstacles. Her life’s challenges illustrate that although the path can be murky and difficult at times, the end result can turn out to be an amazing success story — all you have to do is, go for it!