CHICAGO: Immigration challenges have helped many successful Arab-American entrepreneurs, a panel of business leaders said Wednesday during an online panel discussion hosted by the Arab America Foundation.
Participants included business leaders who have appeared on many popular American television programs, including “Shark Tank,” “The Apprentice,” “The Kardashians” and “Operation Runway.”
The panel also hosted several high-flying businesswomen who said they have overcome gender imbalances.
All said their success was partly the result of the work ethic their immigrant parents brought to the United States, as well as their own “passionate drive” to pursue their dreams.
“My parents paved the way for me… even though poverty was common in Yemen… they came to this country in the 1960s with the sole determination to succeed,” said Aneesa Muthana, CEO of Pioneer Service Inc, a owned and operated by women. small Chicago company providing precision machined parts since 1990.
“My parents worked very hard. I saved their money. They opened a manufacturing plant…I learned how to run a business from the inside and out.
Muthana makes parts for companies in the aerospace industry, including Tesla, as well as for ventilators and oxygen equipment, some of which has helped the medical industry cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
“What is our collection? My father opened the door for me, but if it wasn’t my passion, I wouldn’t have done well. It is easy for us to succeed in this country. This is the land of opportunity.
Farouk Shami, founder of the billionaire company Farouk Systems in Houston, Texas, and a frequent guest on former President Donald Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice,” arrived in the United States in 1965 and s He embarked on a business that his father opposed and criticized. .
“I went to a beauty school and my father was very upset and said he would disown me… it was no business for a man, my father said,” Shami recalls from his company headquarters in Houston.
“I specialized in hair coloring when coloring was not in fashion. I told my father that I would be the best hairdresser in the world.
Shami said his personal experience drove him to success: “I was allergic to hair coloring and my doctor told me I should stop, but I experimented and developed organic hair coloring. »
Today, Shami owns 46 hair patents and his company operates in 150 countries around the world with a turnover of over $1 billion.
Rami Kashou, CEO of the Rami Kashou brand, was born in Jerusalem, Palestine before growing up in Ramallah where he learned about fashion and clothing from his mother.
Kashou appeared on the hit TV show “Operation Runway” competing against designers from around the world.
He has created fashion designs for Queen Rania of Jordan and reality TV star Kim Kardashian.
“It starts with my parents, a father who was a self-made businessman who wore many different hats and who taught me to jump with courage and take risks,” Kashou said.
“And I had a wonderful mother who supported me from a young age, who passed down fabrics to me during my parents’ travels. I was able to join her and the local seamstress to design her friends’ looks.
Kashou said he was inspired to succeed because of his childhood environment, in Ramallah under Israeli military occupation.
“Coming from an atmosphere of apartheid and occupation, and many hours of quarantine under military force, I think this is where dreams are sometimes born, in the darkest corners of life,” said Kashou said.
“The dream of becoming a designer was born from the lack of space as a child, growing up among jeeps, soldiers, intimidation, violence and occupation. I think the unconscious choice of creativity and design happened as a way to cope with a difficult reality that I experienced and endured.
Kashou studied design in the United States and started her fashion business producing evening wear.
Manal Saab, CEO of Sorensen Gross Construction Services based in Flint, Michigan, provides recruiting services to a wide range of male-dominated industries, including automotive manufacturing and construction.
“As a businesswoman, the bar needs to be set much higher because unfortunately we live in a world where people see a woman, an immigrant and someone with an accent and ask: what can she bring to the table? Table ? Saab explained.
“In everything I do, I try to build bridges with other people who are like me. »
Muthana said being a woman in a business run by men can be a challenge, adding: “When I walk into a room in this industry, I’m the only woman. I am the only brown person. And I’m definitely the only hijabee.
She said she achieves success by defining her own core values and aligning herself with those who share them.
Samy Kobrosly, co-founder of Snacklins, is the son of Tunisian immigrants who settled in Iowa in the 1980s.
Former radio personality and chef Samy Kobrosly was obsessed with the idea of meatless pork rind after joking with a friend about his inability to have the classic snack given his Muslim upbringing.
After rounds of experimentation, he landed on a simple recipe using yuca, mushrooms, and onions to create a crispy, airy, 100% vegan, plant-based crisp that resembled pork rinds.
“I’m a fan of irony, a Muslim person making a vegan pork rind… that kind of joke only went so far. Everyone laughs about that, but going forward my next job was to provide that opportunity to people I saw who didn’t have that opportunity,” Kobrosly said.
Kobrosly featured his product on an episode of “Shark Tank” and won a $250,000 investment from billionaire Mark Cuban to create vegan, gluten-free, 80-calorie pork rind puffed chips from ingredients simple.
Saab closed the event: “To be truly successful, you have to be very passionate about what you do. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.