How to Use Your Discrimination Experience to Ignite a Brand

#WOCinTech ChatNo matter how advanced we consider ourselves as a society, or how much the chatter of tolerance and equality seems to fill the pages of our news feeds, let’s be honest: discrimination is still a thing. It’s a thing for women—and it’s especially a thing for multicultural women. The double whammy of being both a woman and a cultural minority can often feel like a losing battle that’s on an infinite loop, the feeling that no matter how hard we work or excel, we can never add up to the pervasive white male “standard of excellence.” But have you ever considered that you can earn profit from pain?

The Pain of Your Discrimination is the Key to Your Success

What the above really means is what  Nely Galán talks about  in her book, SELF MADE. “In your pain is your brand,” she says, making the case that if you have a particular problem, chances are that more people out there will, too—which is essentially how your target market emerges. So granted, your pain might hurt (that’s the nature of pain, after all), but when you look at it this way, your particular pain can also become the vehicle for your business to grow.

“I believe that pain is a gateway to growth. As much as we may try to sweep pain under the rug, delete it, or shield our children from it, pain is something that we must learn to have a relationship with. When it arrives, it is terrible—that we know—but it’s important to be aware that something great can come of it,” Nely writes.

Pain + Passion = Profit

Take, for example, the case of 25-year old female chef, Chloe St-Cyr, who, despite having worked at the highest profile restaurants in Quebec, cooked in the company of several five-starred Michelin chefs in Dubai, won the 2015 Taste New Zealand competition, and placed third in Emirates Salon Culinaire’s Young Chef of the Year 2015 competition, still found herself, according to Fast Company, “always bumping up against the systemic sexist behavior so prevalent in the culinary industry.” The 25-year old chef claims people think they are paying her a compliment when they tell her she works like a man, and that it’s almost impossible to find a chef’s jacket tailored for someone with boobs.

So what did she do? She turned her frustration into a company, MiumMium, a community marketplace for hiring on-demand private chefs. Through her platform, consumers can hire chefs to cook in their homes or event venues for private dinners or special occasions. Chefs are not asked to state whether they are male or female upon registration for the marketplace, which by the way, also protects LGBT chefs from any discrimination.

Then there’s the story of plus-size Cambodian designer, Theary Kim, who grew up in Oregon where she felt discriminated against because clothing companies never made apparel for girls her size. Today Theary is the CEO and founder of a successful plus-size clothing line called Youtheary Khmer. She took the pain for not feeling like she belonged and transformed it into not only a business, but a creative outlet where she could flourish.

And how about the European company called Afrostream, which, according to TechCrunch, is a Netflix-like platform focused solely on African and African American content, whose founder, Tonjé Bakang T., always felt that there were never enough celebrity African role models for him while he was growing up.

All of these people turned pain into profit by zeroing in on the fact that the pain of their discrimination was also the seed for their success, and that by tapping into the heart of their identity—the good, the bad and the ugly—they could position themselves for real advancement. As music mogul Jay Z puts it, “identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow.”