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Azra Khalfan leads Plaques by Azra, a family business that has been crafting custom awards, signs and more since 1974. When we wrote about her in 2014, she and the firm were beginning to receive some national recognition. “It’s almost like I’ve been discovered,” she told us. “People are appreciating what I do.”

Indeed, a star was born. Khalfan has since been recognized for her work atop the ever-growing firm by the likes of microfinance nonprofit Accion and the National Minority Supplier Development Council. She has taken on numerous speaking engagements and even helped ring the NASDAQ bell two times in the past 6 months — first, with New York City Small Business Services, then again with the Tory Burch Foundation.

These opportunities matter to Khalfan, who relishes the chance to push people to rethink preconceived notions of Muslim women. “We are representing in a very positive, organic way, and people are able to sense that. This type of positivity, in this climate, is so powerful and impactful — these small stories that change people’s perceptions,” she says.

The financial security provided by her business enables her to engage in all of these eye-opening activities and experiences. “It allows me to get involved. It allows me to dream a lot bigger.”

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