Living the American Dream
You’ve heard it before…It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. But for Overland Park resident Regina Sergiyenko, it is what you know and it’s who you know. And it’s not taking “no” for an answer.
Success is something seemingly unattainable and indefinable for many, but for Sergiyenko success is living her dream and finding true happiness. An immigrant living a version of the American Dream, and Sergiyenko is doing so with a little help from her friends.
Sergiyenko moved to the United States with her husband 10 years ago. When he told her they would live in Kansas City, what Sergiyenko pictured was much different from what Overland Park residents call home. When they arrived in the area, she said, “City? Where is the city?” Her idea of a city did not match the namesake of this greater metropolitan area.
But, it didn’t take long for Sergiyenko to feel right at home. “Somehow I adjusted and I absolutely love it. I would never move anywhere else if someone asked me,” she says. Which is good, since the company she oversees has chosen Overland Park as its national headquarters.
Sergiyenko, now a U.S. citizen, is CEO of PocketBook-USA, the first Ukrainian retail chain store in the U.S. PocketBook is one of the top five e-reader companies in the world and Sergiyenko’s division encompasses the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Israel. Founded in 2007, PocketBook’s first U.S. location opened in Independence, Mo., and its second opened in Seattle. The company plans to open approximately 20 additional stores nationwide in 2011.
A busy businesswoman and mother, Sergiyenko is no stranger to hard work. She opened her first business at the young age of 19 while still living in the Ukraine.
“I worked with farmers and made my own flour which I then sold to bakeries,” says Sergiyenko. “I was not the typical immigrant. I had some money from my business and was used to working as hard as Americans do.”
Sergiyenko says Americans work more hours than Europeans and have more competition for jobs. “There are more perfectionists here,” she says. “There’s no room for mistakes because of the amount of competition. You must stay on top of things.”
Sergiyenko attributes her success to passion, hard work and the adage that luck is perspiration and preparation meeting opportunity. Her husband, father and two daughters also play a major role in her success.
“My husband is my vision,” says Sergiyenko. “My daughters help test-drive the products. My family is everything. Without their help, I would not have been able to achieve the level where I am right now.”
Sergiyenko also acknowledges the connections she has made and that without the friendships in her life, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
Sergiyenko was inspired by Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life, which has lent several success tips to her life story. “He [Clinton] talks about the importance of connections, and of friends,” says Sergiyenko. “My friends have become my family. We support each other and grow with each other.” And, it’s many of her friends, along with her experience, that have helped her reach CEO status.
From her service manager and two sales managers to her Ukrainian friend who taught her the retail ropes, Sergiyenko has depended upon her knowledge (she earned master’s degrees in both business and engineering), her perseverance and the people who have not let her down. Formerly a teller, loan processor and then a sales representative for a title company and later a chemical company, Sergiyenko gained experience and called upon the people she knew at PocketBook headquarters in the Ukraine, a move that eventually led to her current position.
“I was seven months pregnant when my husband and I moved here. People told me if I moved to the U.S. all I could do was hourly work,” Sergiyenko recalls. Now, as a member of an elite, worldwide minority–female chief executive officers–it seems Sergiyenko knew enough to prove them wrong.
For more information on PocketBook-USA, visit www.pocketbook-usa.com.
words: Kelli White
photos: Benjamin McCall