You could say that immigrants are natural-born entrepreneurs.
They have been uprooted — by choice or not — from the lands of their birth, settled in new countries, found ways to sustain themselves and their families, very often by starting businesses. Immigrant values can even provide an entrepreneurs’ guide to bootstrapping to success.
It appears that the path for many immigrants is getting more treacherous. Immigration has become, once again, a potent political issue in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. This weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order barring refugees and other visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. A few days earlier, he signed an order that puts in motion his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Meanwhile in Canada, gunmen killed six people and wounded eight others in a mosque in the city of Quebec on Sunday night, in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said was a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”
In recent years, The Story Exchange has spotlighted a host of women immigrants to the United States and elsewhere who have found economic opportunity through business ownership — and added to the richness and energy of their new homes. They have started a range of successful businesses that solve problems, engage customers and create jobs. Many hail from predominantly Muslim countries.
Most recently, we profiled Fif Ghobadian, whose family fled 1970s revolutionary Iran, one of the countries whose citizens are affected by President Trump’s executive order. Ghobadian took her visceral, personal understanding of the desperation in loosing everything and made it the mission of her company to help women in San Francisco rebuild their lives after prison.
Nada Kiblawi was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp and survived multiple wars in the Middle East. She found both a safe haven and economic independence as an entrepreneur in the U.S. by founding an engineering company, NHK Consulting. Now mostly retired, Kiblawi is dedicated to philanthropy: primarily a program she and her husband founded to teach English to hundreds of students in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.
Alma Jadallah made conflict resolution her life’s work. Born in Saudi Arabia to Jordanian parents, she ultimately put down roots in Fairfax, Va., where she runs a firm, Kommon Denominator, that is focused on conflict prevention and mitigation in the Middle East — precisely the conflicts that are driving people to flee their homelands in search of safer lives elsewhere.
Get to know many more inspiring immigrant women entrepreneurs by visiting our Immigrant Entrepreneurs page. And if you’re an immigrant women business owner with a story to tell, please share it by joining our 1,000+ Stories project. We may just feature you too.