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Hard work and persistence are a great substitute for talent, says this entrepreneur

From selling greeting cards in his native Pakistan at age 7 to having his software on more than 17 million websites, Syed Balkhi’s entrepreneurial journey proves persistence can get you further than even an advanced college degree and unlimited funding.

Hard work and persistence are a great substitute for talent, says this entrepreneur
[Photo: Andrew Hawkes/Unsplash]
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There is no such thing as a standard entrepreneur. The stories of business owners are as diverse and unique as the businesses they start. Syed Balkhi is one who not only has multiple successful ventures but a unique story. 

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His journey started at the age of 7 when he began selling holiday greeting cards for the Muslim holiday Eid in his hometown of Karachi, Pakistan. Today, his software is found on more than 17 million websites. His journey is one of persistence, patience, and family values that is an object lesson in finding opportunity in adversity. 

Even if you’ve never heard of him, you’ve likely used his products while managing or navigating a website. Balkhi is the creator of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site, OptinMonster, a service that helps brands manage their email campaigns, and WPForms, a tool that helps WordPress developers create form templates. 

Balkhi has also acquired significant players in the WordPress field, including the analytics tool MonsterInsights and the contest platform, RafflePress. If you’ve filled out an online form or subscribed to an email newsletter, you have likely encountered one of his tools. 

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These successes have earned Balkhi recognition from the United Nations as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 30. However, Balkhi doesn’t highlight his programming skills or business acumen when he talks about his success. Instead, he talks about the hard work that helped him overcome obstacles. 

Balkhi moved to the United States when he was 12 with a thick accent and poor English skills. His family wasn’t well off and his father’s mechanical engineering job didn’t translate in the United States. As a result, he watched his father work 16 hours each day and take on a part-time job on the weekends. Balkhi saw how hard his father worked and instead of focusing on what they lacked, he took matters into his own hands: 

My family was financially struggling, so I knew I had to figure out a way to help wherever I can. I learned that kids can make money by doing chores for neighbors like washing cars, cleaning the backyard, etc. I did all of that to earn extra cash so my younger brother and I could buy snacks. 

Balkhi found that, as he grows in his career, he sees this lesson as a key one in the business world. “Now as I’ve read a lot more business books, I think Napoleon Hill’s quote sums up my greatest career lesson: ‘Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success,'” he says.

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Life experience can be your best tool

Balkhi’s life experience has become a critical business tool. He explains:

My experience growing up in Pakistan, immigrating to the U.S., and growing up in the circumstances that I did helped give me a unique perspective on how I address problems. I don’t get extremely stressed about anything because I remember where I started and how things were. This gives me courage and motivation to keep moving forward.

In other words, you don’t have to be experienced to succeed. You can grow a business just by trying new things and building on your own experiences. An advanced college degree and unlimited funding are nice, but someone who works hard, perseveres, and is willing to take risks can go just as far. 

Finding opportunity in the gaps

While Balkhi learned to find opportunity in adversity while growing up, he developed two of his best-known tools, WPBeginner and OptinMonster, because he saw the opportunity in the gaps. 

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WPBeginner was formed when Balkhi was trying to move away from small, website management clients that kept him on retainer. He wanted to set up self-sufficient websites but found a lack of resources on the web. This made troubleshooting issues difficult. With WPBeginner, webmasters without large site management budgets can find answers to common problems so their sites run at their best. 

Similarly, Balkhi developed OptinMonster because he wasn’t happy with any of the other email enrollment tools. Instead of sticking with the least-worst option, he built something of value. He addressed problems with his own creative solutions and now offers several products that millions of webmasters use. 

The ability to find and address these gaps has led to his continued ability to create or acquire products that people need.

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Don’t ignore the opportunity in any experience

Balkhi’s parents’ experience in the United States and his own as a child have taught him to look for opportunities when faced with adversity. Instead of getting stuck in a problem or accepting a setback as fate, he continually pushes through and finds solutions. Looking at all he’s accomplished, we are reminded to look for the opportunity because it’s always there if we’re willing to work hard, persist, and take risks.


Jessica Thiefels is the author of 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions, podcast host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.