Refugee entrepreneurship in the United States

Near Washington DC, Syrian refugee Nader Briman is sewing wedding dresses. And his wife is cooking shawarma and meat pies. The Brimans’ new community stands to gain from their arrival.

One study out of Cleveland in 2013 noted that “in advanced economies, once refugees have adjusted to their new life after resettlement, they can provide substantial contributions to the workforce and economic development in the long run at the regional level.”

Other American entrepreneurs have tread a path reminiscent of the Brimans and made a difference not just for their neighborhoods, but their new nation. Hamdi Ulukaya came to the United States in 1994 to escape escalating political tensions in Turkey, where his status as a politically active Kurd — albeit one who disavowed violence — earned him the attention of Turkish police.  Just over a decade later, he launched Chobani, a category-creating Greek yoghurt company that today is America’s biggest-selling yogurt brand, earning $2 billion in annual revenues.

Today close to a third of Ulukaya’s workers at Chobani’s Idaho plant are refugees. Or newly arrived Americans. As Ulukaya has said, “the minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

The same is true of former refugees like Google (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin, Intel (INTC, Tech30) co-founder Andy Grove, or WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum — some of the world’s most innovative and successful businesses simply wouldn’t exist if they had been turned away in their time of need.

[CNN]

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