For the month of July 2021, The Immigrant Life is putting the spotlight on phenomenal Mariana Konsolos whose tale of constant rediscovery and persistence is bound to inspire every immigrant looking to review, revive and rebuild their lives in Canada.
One of the biggest emotions many of us, first generation Canadians relate to, is that sense of being lost and feeling like a nobody in the vast country that it is. We often feel very lonely amidst a new environment, new people, new ways of life. Mariana was no exception.
She was a princess back in her homeland, Uruguay and lived like one! Her story of choosing Canada is unlike many immigrants who come for better life or running away for safety. She did not come to Canada for lack of options. She came just for love and over twenty years down the line, that love is still burning hot.
Mariana Konsolos was born in 1966 to a middle-class Polish-Jew family in Uruguay. She was a very successful real-estate entrepreneur who left that booming business in the hands of her parents for a blind date. Luckily for her that blind date turned out to be the love-of-her-life.
But Mariana wasn’t prepared for her new life in a new country. She was oblivious to what this new life would entail. Her life flipped from the comforts of Montevideo to obscurity in Edmonton and finally, Vancouver.
Mariana is the kind of first generation Canadian we all want to be — determined, undeterred and successful. That feeling of being an unknown, however, meant new opportunity for her. “Being nobody is humbling. There is no judgement. It’s a discovery,” she says. “I felt I was given a plain canvas, a bunch of colours and time to paint a new life, a new version of myself.”
But when it comes to settling in a new place, “Acceptance is key. When you accept that you’re not going to be the same person you were back home and you let that go and no longer get attached to that person, then you can start to rebuild your life here.” Mariana vouches for hard work. “Work is work. Whatever you do, try to be the best.”
Openness can take you a long way in restarting your life as an immigrant. “Be open. Decide you want to be a part of the new culture. Adjust and don’t expect people to adjust to you.”
Mariana has followed her life motto “Say Yes Ask Questions Later” (also the name of her Amazon Bestselling book) at every step of the way starting with learning the English language. In her new avatar, Mariana had to restart with polishing her English language skills. Like any immigrant looking to find a job she faced innumerable rejections for her lack of “Canadian experience”.
“Good people are not always those who lack class. The brave are not those who feel no fear. And the generous are not those who never feel selfish. Extraordinary people are not extraordinary because they are invulnerable to unconscious biases. They are extraordinary because they choose to do something about it.”
With every block she stumbled upon, Mariana used them to pave a new path. She started working for a retail business and was able to show her business acumen which opened more opportunities. When she was asked to manage the retail store, she decided to start her own business.
Her entrepreneurial spirit with which she started her real estate business in Uruguay became valuable here in Canada too. She started a successful company of fashion accessories. Her mantra for making a success of your business idea is to make people believe in you. “People only buy trust no matter the business you’re doing.”
She, however, warns against equating money and material gain with success and urges new immigrants to think of how many lives you touch meaningfully. “We all have a hole inside and we try to fill that hole. But our greatest reward is in the process and who we become in the process.”
After running the business successfully for 13 years, she sold that business in 2015 and was able to retire early at 48. She now mentors upcoming entrepreneurs at University of British Columbia, many of them new immigrants. Resilience is an immigrant’s superpower. “When you fall and stand back that takes you a step closer to your goal,” she says and asks that you keep your hunger alive – to learn and grow. “You will look for excuses when you are not hungry.”
She lives by what she preaches – say yes. To everything. “Living with a YES attitude is very important because people don’t realize that a YES attitude comes with the questions that you ask after. Saying YES opens doors of opportunities. Saying YES opens you up to hear the full story and you’d be able to take the risks and calibrate where you are presently to see how you can take the risks.”
“Fear makes you not to say YES more often. Revisit yourself. Discover the fear.”
We hope Mariana’s mantras help you to look beyond the hurdles and say yes to opportunities that are on the horizon.