Ilona Todd (aka Ilona Europa)
Founder and Owner,
Ilona Europa Creative
When did you arrive in the United States and why did you come?
I arrived in the United States about 20 years ago. I had fallen in love with an American and decided to move to America with my new husband.
Did you intend to return to your native country at the time?
I knew this would be permanent. I knew that my life would continue in America.
Do you now?
I did not intend to return to my native Poland when I moved to America, but it has turned out that I frequently travel back and forth between Poland and America. I’m an accomplished artist in Poland as well as in America. Both family and business keep me busy in both worlds.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of your native country?
I was a successful singer in Poland, performing and traveling the world representing my native country. I regularly appeared on TV, and won top awards and competitions. I knew I couldn’t instantly transfer my European singing career to the United States. My English at the time was not good and I didn’t have connections here. So I decided to create a vocal academy for young singing talents. I have trained more than 100 young people from 8 years old up. Some of these students have gone on to the best music universities in the world, released records, and have had their songs or vocals included in films and on TV.
What’s the worst thing about starting and running a business in the United States?
The worst thing about running a creative business in the United States is collecting money owed in a timely manner.
What’s the best thing?
You’re rewarded for being entrepreneurial. I found it easy to start my own business here.
What advice would you give someone from your native country about starting a business here?
For Poles wanting to start a business here I’d say focus on what makes you unique and different. Don’t try to blend in.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a foreign-born entrepreneur?
When I am hired to speak as a woman entrepreneur I tend to pronounce some words a bit wrong. I told one group that I’d be interested in their return “massage” to me, rather than their “message.” For another group, I concluded, “Do I have any questions for you?” But generally people laugh with me at these mistakes.
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