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Svetlana Kim immigrated to the United States from Leningrad, Russia in 1991 with one dollar in her pocket and not a single word of English. She worked her way from a cleaning lady to a successful stockbroker. She has received compliments and letters from people like Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and many more.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How did she survive living alone in the US with just one dollar in her pocket?
  • What is her lowest emotional moment and how she overcome it?
  • Who is her inspiration on her journey and survival?
  • What is one of her proudest moment?
  • What is her biggest milestone she achieved?

Svetlana Kim has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC among others. Today she is a motivational speaker, consultant, community leader and a 2008 Asian Academy Hall of Fame inductee.

Svetlana love books, shoes, chocolate, perfumes, and things that awaken the senses.
Her living room is bright yellow. She has a room for meditation that is pure white.

Business Mentors, Tools, Books mentioned:

  • White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee
  • The Purpose of Your Life
  • Carol Adrienne
  • Bob Burg
  • John David Mann
  • The Go Giver
  • Go Givers Sell More

A little background about Svetlana Kim:

Svetlana Kim is an entrepreneur, bestselling author of White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, and a community leader. Her life story is truly an American opportunity story. It is the story of an immigrant searching for and finding human kindness in a foreign country, determining her own destiny, and finding success along the way.

Svetlana’s life is an homage to her greatest inspiration, her grandmother Bya-ok (Korean for White Pearl), as well as to countless hard-working and generous people. Svetlana says these people taught her “to never stop dreaming big and to pursue my own happiness.” Svetlana’s life is inspiring for more than her courage to leave her home. Mrs. Kim’s stellar leadership, ethical business practices, and community service is highlighted through numerous awards, including the renowned Euro-American Women’s Council “Goddess Artemis” Award.

Svetlana Kim is the author of White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, which chronicles her journey from Russia to the United States, where she arrived with only one dollar in her pocket and a few words of English at her disposal; today, she is a leader among her peers in the business world, and has been honored with numerous awards citing her commitment, skill, and integrity. In February 2010, Orphan International Worldwide honored her with its Global Citizenship Award for her work towards saving the lives of children in Haiti.


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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

In this inspired interview, we talked with Svetlana Kim, she with $1 in a pocket and not a word of English came to the US and it’s received compliments and letters from people like Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and many more. Find out how she did it and much more coming up right now.

Jeremy Weisz 0:43
Jeremy Weiss here with Hero Svetlana Kim. Just to tell you a little bit about Svetlana. She immigrated to the United States from Leningrad, Russia in 1991. She worked her way from a cleaning lady to a successful stockbroker. Today, she’s a motivational speaker, consultant, community leader, and she was 2008 Asian Academy Hall of Fame inductee. She’s received compliments and letters from people like Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and many more. She has been featured in The New York Times Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, among many others. Thank you so much Atlanta for coming here today.

Jeremy Weisz 1:28
no fun fact about Svetlana when she didn’t mention yet is a couple things. She loves books, shoes, chocolate, perfumes and things that awaken the senses for living room is a bright yellow color. And she even has a separate room for meditation, which is pure white. Is that right? Got it. So Svetlana Vesely is the perfect person to talk to us about overcoming personal challenges if she started a $1 in our pocket, not a single word of English to a leader among leaders. And Svetlana, can you tell us about one of those emotional low points in the past?

Svetlana Kim 2:11
Well, that is a great question on there, there were so many. In fact, I think the lowest point in my life was, and if I get the motional, please forgive me. On I escaped from Russia in 1991, three months before the collapse of Soviet Union. And my story starts with a line. It’s all started with a loaf of bread, that didn’t even exist. The reason is that all this products disappeared from the shelves in 1991. So I was standing simply to buy bread for two days on a roll. And I encounter my old classmate, who was a mafia guy on the black market in Russia. So he was making lots of money, selling tickets from a Moscow or St. Petersburg, Leningrad, back down to New York. And it’s important to know that there was no flights to any other cities in United States, so I only had way to come to New York. So I had less than 10 days to race. $900 Can you imagine my scholarship was $1.40. That’s a lot of money to me. My father was a physician, medical doctor, his salary was $5.60. And this is all verified by Wall Street Journal by the records because when I was writing a book, I didn’t know the conversion. I was buying tickets on the blood pocket. The markup is high. So that’s the story. My whole life is one string of pearls. And each pearl is a unique event in my life. And my grandmother’s name is by York, white pearl. So I work for us to honor her best and always happy to share pearls of wisdom. This is his people.

Jeremy Weisz 4:19: Yeah, that’s really nice. I mean, that’s what about Glenn,

Svetlana Kim 4:24
he can English have no place to stay. Not knowing anyone traveling to foreign country. You know, everything was different. The sky. Water is different. That was the lowest moment in my life. And I was on Mission Street in San Francisco, and I saw a homeless person living in a box. And that is exactly what I saw in the book about LA just before I left Russia, so I was truly fortified. And that is Fear of being homeless one day haunted me for many, many years, and have to be honest, until about a couple of years ago, I established an overnight program at company women’s shelter in Chinatown as a first volunteer to spend mine in shelter. And I did that on the part of junior league on Washington DC. And really, truly didn’t back join in this nonprofit organization. That’s where I learned my skills, communication skills, writing skills, most important fundraising skills that led me to fundraise for political ends and on presidential campaign. So it’s really experience and every moment that will leave is

Jeremy Weisz 5:53
how did you what happened when you got here? What was that like when you first got to the US?

Svetlana Kim 6:01
I was seated at JFK on December 18 1991. I had the forehead that my mother made for me from sacral. That was a gift from a hunter to my dad. And I had code for code. I look like I came from Alaska. It was raining in San Francisco. And I knew there is no winter in California. But it was it’s freezing in Russia. So I put a little raincoat In fact, I only got a few books, here’s a few pieces of two t shirts, one pair of jeans, I didn’t even have a suitcase because I could not afford them. And I have this little backpack that was made by my grandmother, in my, in my, in my bedroom right now. So I keep that and I you know, I travel a lot. And I moved in that I bring with me everywhere I go. So it was very strange not to see normal, your 22 year old, and I’m getting bubbly. I am a talker if you only saw her. My parents were my parents were, you know, they were worried about me, because is this growth series is I mean, I’ve been always, you know, a good student, but they were like she talks so much, you know, the Culture in Russia is different. And when I came to United States, everyone is drinking a bottle of water. So I drink about, you know, eight to 10 glasses of water. I was surprised that people would say hi, on a street. That is not common in Russia, maybe today it is because the country is so international, but not back then. So not being able to speak and to understand what’s psychological feels very challenging for me. And besides all the problems that I had, how to be, you know, legal in the country, how to, you know, get permission to work. So I literally had I lived through every single problem.

Jeremy Weisz 8:18
How did you overcome some of those?

Svetlana Kim 8:20
You know, when people said, no money just started the business. I’m like, I had no money to pay for bus fare. 75 cents back then I you know, sometimes would get a free ride. Or most of the time, I would walk in fact, my first pair of shoes that I bought a painless for $5. That’s a company I would like to talk or to do consulting because they lost it for two years.

Jeremy Weisz 8:49
So how did you overcome some of those low points?

Svetlana Kim 8:56
I had good foundation because I was raised by my grandmother by yoke white pearl. And every moment every moment, I would just close my eyes and just dip into that feeling. Like I just I think it’s the face. I knew I would be okay. I knew so today and sitting in your shoes that she gave it to me as a gift. In 1975 She was a renaissance woman she even shoes, I can see the nails. But who would you that? You know, one day I would wear that basically perfectly. They’re so comfortable. And I treasure them you know, I only wear them inside the house or when I talk at the conferences, you know, so walking in her shoes is a big challenge.

Jeremy Weisz 9:54
Yeah, literally right. So what is it that you think of when you because you’re hungry? grandmother really inspires you when you think about her and what she did. What are those thoughts that go through your head that inspire you to move and push forward?

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