“You have to believe in your dream because if you don’t then nobody else will. Jump into your business with no hesitation,” Carel Mukongo advises. “I remember when I first came out with my cup idea, people weren’t really open to spending $2 or $3 on a Styrofoam cup. But I kept applying the pressure and now my cups are international.” Carol Mukongo is the CEO of Mukongo Inc. and is well-known for his investing and financial literacy mentor sessions. Mukongo hosted numerous one-to-one mentoring sessions about stocks and the expectations of being an investor, the goods and the bad. His clients ranged from people in Brooklyn, USA, to Australia.
“What differentiates myself from other mentoring sessions who are teaching about stocks and investing is that, I like to make it as simple as possible. Not everyone can understand what certain words mean and it makes the learning process 100x harder than it needs to be.”
Mukongo was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was raised in Queens, New York. Mukongo often visits his home country where he is reminded of the opportunity he has of living in the United States and being successful. He mentioned his hard work isn’t just for himself but for his family and other people back home who are counting on him. Being that he is the oldest son living in an African household, his hard work and future fortune will make his family both in Congo and in the United States proud.
Mukongo earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2018 from the University of Bridgeport. His original plan was to become a lawyer but after spending time preparing for the LSATs for the second time, he lost the motivation to pursue law. A little over a year ago, Mukongo considered starting his career as an entrepreneur. “I wasn’t sure if I would get my parents approval of my switch in career choices. When you have parents who are from the African and Caribbean descent, they typically want you to pursue a career as a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer. Everything else is seen as a disgrace. So when I came to them with my idea to be an entrepreneur, I was skeptical but they were actually very supportive. They saw how much I’ve grown after I went to college and wasn’t really surprised.”
Mukongo’s interest in entrepreneurship peaked during his sophomore year of college. He did countless research on Black billionaires and entrepreneurs. One artist he’s always noticed was rapper Jay-Z. “A lot of people may not realize it but Jay-Z is always innovating. He does a lot besides music. Whenever there was a hot new business, Jay-Z was always involved one way or another. That was the motivation for me where I don’t want to work under someone else. It motivated me to have a goal where I am in my late 20s early 30s, I’ll have a good business and brand running. Hopefully, I will become so successful that I am able to have generational wealth.”
His goal inspired him to create his own company Mukongo Inc. “The mission of my company was to originally highlight other entrepreneurs but I became one once I started my beverageware company.” Mukongo started to sell Styrofoam cups to his peers at his university. As he became knowledgeable about Styrofoam and its affect in the environment, he decided to move from Styrofoam to plastic reusable cups. “When I first started off with my cups it was really just my friends supporting me and a couple sales here and there. It really started to pick up during my senior year when I started to sell different colors cups. From there, I started to sell shot glasses, cups with straws and lids.” Mukongo mentioned he started to see his cups going national in 2019. Currently, he is in the works of coming out with a summer line of new cups and shot glasses. “I never thought my beverageware would do so well and get so big. At the time, I thought ‘Why would people buy a cup?’, but that’s when I started putting catchy lines from memes and it became a movement. Mukongo is also in the works of launching his own line of vending machines in late July. His machines vary from quarters, candy, snacks and etc. His plan is to set them up in many different businesses.
“Even though I’m not expecting to become a millionaire by selling cups and having vending machines. I do believe that it is important to have multiple businesses. One thing that I have noticed about millionaires is that they have numerous sources of income. We saw first-hand with everything that is going on with COVID-19, the importance of having more than one income. It doesn’t matter if you have a degree or a great job all the time. Hence why I am starting early in my 20s, so by the time I am in 30, I am well-trained and have experience.”
Mukongo expressed the importance of the Black community being well versed and educated in
financial literacy. “Compared to our white counterparts, we have a late start. When their children turn 18, they aren’t really enforcing them to leave the house, they are letting them stay and build their credit and job resumes. Where for us, it’s the opposite. We are enforcing rent and having them fend for themselves––that results in debt. We already had a late start but now there’s extra weights. So now they are in debt for decades.”
Mukongo continued: “There’s a reason why we are not taught about stocks and investing. There’s a reason why courses like such aren’t talked about in universities. They want us to remain stagnant and be in that working class. So if you can, please educate yourself, your future/ current children, friends and family on ways to be more literate with finance.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Mukonog’s first name.