My Story: From A War Refugee to Father and Entrepreneur.
My name is Aram Aldarraji and welcome to my blog.
I started a lot of side hustles and worked a lot of jobs in the past, but always felt the fire inside me telling me to start my own. Starting my own business (With less than 2K as my budget) was the best decision I made in my life. I truly felt freedom and felt that what I’m doing is something meaningful. Most importantly, I’m able to make way more money, spend more time with my family, meet all types of interesting and intelligent people, as well as taking better care of my mental and physical health.
However, it was a long, bumpy road to get where I am today.
Throughout my life, I always tried to start my own businesses, but self-doubt, losing interest because of some small issues and the fear of taking a different road (not doing what most people are doing) always made me quit every time. Beating those fears was a necessary step for me, I had to start with myself.
Here’s how it went:
I started with an idea, then planed every detail of it. I spent hours and hours every day daydreaming and thinking about how it was going to work. The thought of this started to consume my everyday life, and my only goal was to come up with something that would work.
I get very excited about the idea. Make a logo, website and everything else necessary then I finally launch. Months of planning and making things perfect so that I had enough courage to share it with friends, family, and the world – fearing of rejection and failure, I held on to this as long as I could.
When I finally finish it, excited, but nervously I’d tell friends and family, so they could look at my great new creation, (guarantee-to-be-unsuccessful) business. The thing I put so much time, effort, dedication into.
While my family and friends did support me in the beginning, I soon started getting phone calls or people would ask me in person how much money I started making and if I am successful. Unfortunately, my answer was no, as much as I would have loved making thousands from the start just like all businesses great things takes time. But people don’t care, and it was something that they just saw that I failed in. After all, in their head if you’re not getting paid every hour then you’re wasting time, go get a job! It started getting to me, and I started doubting myself and convincing myself that it’s going nowhere, I would end up getting a “normal” job and daydream about starting my own business all over again (the cycle goes on).
It’s all psychology: when you hear the closest people to you telling you that you’re not doing good enough and to just give up because you’re not making anything to provide for you or your family, your brain really starts to believe it even though you say it doesn’t. You start to double guess your self and your choice in starting your business, the one thing you have always dreamt of.
Next, it’s time to advertise my new business/services, I got very excited but when I faced a challenge I started doubting myself again and looking for something else to do. I never gave it my all, fear and anxiety always won and took the best of me.
Succeeding in my agency and everything after! Here’s my theories on how it worked:
1. I started with myself(learned about me, faced my fears, acquired the required skills)
2. I launched knowing that there will be failures and setbacks, but I was going to give it my all no matter what.
3. I put my face in the front of everything I do, all is under my name and no one else. Only myself to blame, only me to improve.
4. I put myself in a position where I’m forced to do it. I quit my job, and I’m the only one who was bringing an income in the house, I had to make it work so I can feed my family.
Most people write “About Me” pages that lay out their professional accomplishments.
Although it’s cool to read, it’s not always the case. For some people it takes a very rough road to get to where we are.
The most interesting and successful people had a messed up, sad but very motivational story.
Buckle up because I’m about to share mine.
1995 – Born in the first US-Iraq war
I was born on August 14, 1995, at Baghdad Hospital in Al risalla 2nd, Baghdad, Iraq.
Born naturally, my parents were very excited because I was their first child. Growing up as a lonely only child I always wanted siblings, but it was something I got use to. I was lucky to have a lot of relatives that I grew up with so I didn’t feel too lonely.
Life was pretty good regardless of the circumstances that the country was in. Even though we had so little (my parents could not afford my birthday cake on some birthdays) we were happy because of all the great people who put a smile on our faces regardless of what was going on in the outside world.
My very first memory came at 3. My parents decided to get me little chicks as my first pets, and I absolutely loved them. I was always feeding them, playing with them and even put them to sleep by me. They were my best friends. Later on we added pigeons with them and other types of birds. I was always busy playing with them.
Fast-forward to the day when I started school. It was very unusual for me to see that many kids in one place, so I did not want to be there, and I screamed and cried to go home. A week later my parents convinced me that if I kept going to school and staying all day that they would get me a Nintendo. So they did as they promised and that’s when everything changed.
I was fascinated with the video game console, I would spend hours playing and the rest daydreaming about being the main character in the game. I started telling and bragging to my friends about it. I quickly picked up on how it works, how to fix it when it broke (and other electronics) and without even knowing it I was the go-to kid to fix anything electronics (I even remember adults were asking me to fix stuff for them).
2006 – Moving to another country and starting over
After the second US-Iraq war, we were forced to leave my country Iraq and move to Syria.
Starting over was not easy for me, especially in another country that speaks a different language than the one I’m used to. The only thing that I was thankful for is that I had my cousins there. Shortly after I started school there, we moved to another apartment and that’s where I meet most of my friends that I still talk to.
We left everything back home and had to start over, but I still had my curiosity for learning about technology. I started using the internet, social media, playing video games, and eventually bought my first computer that I learned everything about it on my own. I got so good at it that I soon became the go-to guy to fix computers in my neighborhood again. I also took some advance computer classes that taught me Photoshop and other software. I began to dig deeper in Graphic design and got pretty good at it, I designed pictures of myself and friends, and they absolutely love it. Now looking back at them, we laugh so hard and say what the hell were we thinking.
Life was great until the war started in Syria and we had to leave to another country again. By that time I was already sad because most of my friends had left to other countries or head back home despite the country conditions because it was still not safe.
2011 – Moving to another country (AGAIN), starting over (AGAIN)
After the civil war started in Syria we had to move to a close by country called Jordan.
Starting over again was not my interest, I mostly just stayed by myself most of the time and did not want to do anything but drink and watch TV. I still did little graphic design but rather just eat, sleep, watch TV or play video games. Everything was boring and there was no friends to do anything with.
That was until I found one of my friends that I knew from Syria! He came, saw me and took me to show me around. First store I asked him to show me was the computer stores. My favorite memory was when I bought a brand-new Lenovo laptop and life was not too hectic after that. I instantly downloaded all my favorite softwares, games, and got internet so I can contact my old friends and family to checkup on them. I also found out about courses where they teach you how to take phones apart then fix them, it was a log 6 month class that teaches you everything about how electronics and phones work. I absolutely loved it. I also got certified and finally felt I can get a job or start my own business doing something similar to what I learned and combine it with my experience of graphic design and fixing computers.
Thing were going okay but we did not see a future there. The rent, cost of living and everything else was expensive. I couldn’t go to school or get a job. We had to make a move, we needed to relocate to a country where I can go to school, buy a car, get a job and most importantly have the freedom to do everything I dreamed of. The choice have been made, we applied for the visa, interviewed a couple of times until we were finally approved for it.
2013 – The year I came to America is the year my life changed for the better
tFull of hopes and dreams I came to the land of freedom as a refugee.
Started with a dollar and a dream in a small town called Amarillo, Texas, where I had to quickly learn the language, roads, make friends, get me a job, go to school, get a car, lose weight then start my business.
I started with the obvious, go to school to learn the language and get my high school degree, but that is where I faced my first obstacle. The high school would not accept me because I was 17 and considered too old. I needed to come up with another plan. I started learning the language from TV, picked up enough to get me a job at Walmart (3 or 4 months after I arrived). At the same time I also went to a community college and signed up for ESL (English as a second language) classes then started my journey to getting my GED.
I got it, finally after two or three tries. I got my GED so that means I can finally start college for real, right? Not that easy for me. I had to take college prep classes which set me back a year until I started the actual college classes. Trying to live my last teenage years, full time job, full time school (majored in IT) and partying on the weekend. I was able to do it all baby.
Starting my business was still in my mind.
I was fixing computers, doing graphic design, buying and selling electronics all on the side.
I had a small notebook that I used to write down my business ideas in until it was full. I wanted to be the guy that builds the next billion dollar app so bad. I worked on an app for a year, I hired two programmers with me all of that to find out that a similar one already exist. Moving on to the next idea, e-commerce website that sells everything for $5. I spent months building the website and when I finally launched I would only get few visits and no one buys. So I shut it down, trying the next idea every few months with no success.
I decided to just finish college than get me a job and that’s when I meet my amazing wife.
I got married to the girls that I meet over Snapchat that lived in another state (Michigan)
I remember that ever since we first started talking we never ran out of things to talk about. We would spend hours talking about our lives, goals, things we share and what we wanted to do in the future. No conversation was just a normal one. The most average one was when I asked her what’s your favorite color and that was 5 or 6 months after we meet.
The same year I got married is the same year I was able to graduate from college with my CIS – Coding & Design degree. Life was great, I had everything I set my mind to get. The only missing part was me getting a job with my degree and unfortunately that was not an option where I lived. You see when you live in a small town your potential is limited (at least I felt that way), so me and my wife packed all our stuff and decided to move to Michigan. Time to start over, yayyyy! No, actually this time I was really excited because I know there’s something calling me there. We lived at her parent’s and her sister’s house for a while until I was able to get me a job then find us a house. Shortly after, my wife gave birth to our amazing daughter Lillian ♥. Despite the ups and downs in life and having a new born, my wife always pushed me to start my business. Even though I failed multiple times in the past. We had faith that one day I will be able to set my own schedule so we can travel, spend more time together and enjoy life to the fullest. She knew it can only be done if I became self-employed, and she know that is my goal from the start.
I decided to start my own business on my 26th birthday
With a lot of support from my wife and friends, I decided to pursuit my passion in tech and online businesses. They all said I got what it takes to do it. Most importantly, I belived that in myself too. So I did it, regardless of not having income, having a newborn, mortgage and bills, we will make it happen a way or another. So I started two days after my birthday, I assembled the desk to my office that’s located in the basement. I read books, took classes, got certifications, talked to successful entrepreneurs, listen to podcasts/YouTube and started doing everything that needs to be done to start a successful business. I even created a schedule for myself so I can stay committed. This was a very important step for me and my family and I had to do it.
I figured it out! The key was to have multiple income stream. At first, I started with one business and it’s my Web & Graphic design agency that is called FreeWolf Design, then I started investing in stocks more actively, also offered a consulting services for small businesses and now this blogging business.
Just being able to set your own schedule, pick any topic or a business you’re interested in and learning about it is a huge advantage for anyone’s growth. My curiosity, desire to be free, getting up and trying something else despite the failures is what helped me become successful.
I want to let you know that you can do it too but…
Nothing comes easy in life.
You need to realize that everything you do in life requires effort and dedication. Therefore, if you’re going to work hard in a job might as well do it for yourself so you can get rich, be financially free and do whatever you want in life. The first step is to realize it’s possible and believe that you can do it too. I belive you can too, you just have to put the time and effort and always have faith.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope I inspired you in some way. If you ever need help on your journey you can ask me and I will respond the best I can.
Finally, I would like to thank god, my wife and family for the support. I’m going to leave with the last two pictures I like to share: First one is on my birthday (the day I decided to quit my jobs and start my business) and the second is my office (in the basement). To start somewhere is the main goal and not on how perfect everything is, reach for the starts and the skies the limit.
Have a blessed day, I wish you, peace, freedom and happiness. ♥