Immigration has yet again become a red-hot topic in the United States, amid a heating 2016 presidential race and tumultuous times for the country.
A number of Republican candidates, led by Donald Trump, have embraced anti-immigrant rhetoric to tap into both middle-class malaise and heightened terrorism fears. Amid eroded job security and economic stagnation for many American families, Trump proposed that illegal Mexican economic immigrants, whom he described as criminals and rapists, be blocked from entering the country by a huge new wall. Following horrific jihadist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he declared that the legal entry of all Muslims should be temporarily halted, including Muslim U.S. citizens.
Of course, the candidates are not the first politicians in the U.S. (or France or elsewhere) to fan fears of newcomers and minorities during difficult times. Popular views of immigrants have twisted, turned and twisted again over the course of the country’s history, as waves of immigrants arrived, assimilated and built the country we know today.
So amid all the scaremongering, The Story Exchange would like to, again, call attention to the many accomplishments — and many contributions — of immigrants. Though America’s welcome is not always as warm as our national mythology might suggest, people from every corner of the world continue to come seeking opportunity. And they continue to give back to their new home, adding richness to the melting pot and new energy that feeds its growth.
Want proof? Just watch our video profiles below, where we tell the stories of 11 determined and independent women immigrants who created opportunities for themselves — and jobs for others — by starting and growing their own businesses.
Nada Kiblawi: From Refugee Camp to Successful Entrepreneur
A survivor of multiple wars during her upbringing in Palestine, Nada Hasan Kiblawi, the founder of NHK Consulting, has found safety and economic independence as an entrepreneur in the United States. She even managed to establish herself and gain success in a male-dominated industry.
Alma Jadallah: Immigrant Makes Peace, Near and Far
“We’re selling people ideas of how to think,” says Iraq-born Alma Jadallah, the founder of Kommon Denominator. From hostile religious groups in Iraq to community boards, Jadallah is an expert at getting people from all walks of life to come to the table and resolve their issues.
Ana Perez: The Beauty of the Hair Salon
Ana Perez, originally from Colombia, created a salon, Kika Hair Design, where her clientele come to feel beautiful — and get rid of their stress.
Sheela Murthy: Representing the American Dream
Immigrating to the U.S. from India wasn’t easy for Sheela Murthy. In her words, she “went through hell” to get her green card. That harrowing experience inspired her to start her own immigration law firm, Murthy Law.
Xiaoning Wang: From Mao to Manhattan
Born and raised in 1960s Beijing, Xiaoning Wang, the founder of ChinaSprout, is selling what she knows best — Chinese culture. Her New York-based business teaches children of Chinese descent about Chinese language, culture and more.
Nina Vaca: A Billion Dollar Story
The child of Ecuadorian parents, California native Nina Vaca has taken her Texan IT company, Pinnacle Technical Resources, from the ashes and turned it into a major industry player that collaborates with, and provides staffing resources to, Fortune 500 companies.
Adriana Rodriguez: A Bootstrapping Entrepreneur Builds a Bilingual Preschool
Jardín de Niños Interlingua International School, a bilingual school in Austin, Texas, is the realization of Adriana Rodriguez’s childhood dream. Originally from Mexico City, Rodriguez speaks both English and Spanish, and wanted to pass valuable language skills on to American children.
Ati Williams: Scrappy Broker Gambles on Flat Fees
Ati Williams, who immigrated from Kenya and founded DC Home Buzz, says being a woman business owner in the U.S. has afforded her unique opportunities she might not have had elsewhere. “One of the things I love about America is that there is no glass ceiling as an entrepreneur,” she says.
Alison Chung: The ‘Rain Woman’ Behind a Digital Detective Agency
Alison Chung, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, parlayed a phenomenal gift for numbers into success and opportunity by founding computer forensics firm Teamworks. The Chicago businesswoman says even her own family keeps her away from their digital devices.
Shaan Kandawalla: Prepared for a Male-Dominated World
Entrepreneur Shaan Kandawalla has been challenging gender norms since her formative years in Pakistan. Now, she’s entered the male-dominated tech industry with PlayDate Digital, a startup that makes mobiles apps for kids that feature Hasbro toys and characters.
Delia Viader: After a Disaster, a Winery Starts Anew
Born in Argentina, Delia Viader of Viader Vineyards traveled the world as a diplomat’s daughter. After landing in Napa, Calif., she made strides in the wine business, until she lost her 2003 vintage to a warehouse fire. Her story doesn’t end there.
Featured Image Credit: Leeroy, StockSnap