Three Immigrant EntrepreneursWhose Work Benefitted America
With all the anti-immigration sentiment in the air these days, many people seem to have forgotten that immigrants, both historically and today, have made tremendous contributions to the United States economy and culture. As economist Daniel Costa told USAToday: “If all immigrants were to just disappear from the U.S. workforce tomorrow, that would have a tremendous negative impact on the economy…You’d feel an impact and loss in many, many different occupations and industries, from construction and landscape to finance and IT.”
Immigrants are twice as likelyto start businesses than native U.S. citizens, and foreign-born person founded over 50 percent of the American start-ups worth $1 billion or more.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s policies are making it harder for immigrants who dream of building businesses that add to the American economy stay. As a tribute to those immigrants and a reminder of the potential of every immigrant, we’d like to focus on three immigrant entrepreneurs who enriched America and other Americans thanks to their innovations, hard work and added jobs.
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani.
Ulukaya was born in Turkey to a family of Kurdish dairy-farmers. After studying political science in Ankara, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. In 2005, he took out a loan from the Small Business Administration and bought a recently-closed Kraft yogurt plant to begin producing Greek yogurt based on a recipe inspired by his culture. It was a struggle introducing a new taste to American consumers, but today, the company makes over $1 billion annuallyand employs 2,000 workers. Ulukaya is known as the “King of Greek Yogurt.”
Tashitaa Tufaa, Founder of the Metropolitan Transportation Network
As a child in his native country Ethiopia, Tashitaa Tufaahad to walk 10-miles round-trip to school in his bare feet. He became a school teacher and political activist, but fled to the United States as a political refugee in 1992 after his party clashed with the ruling power. He enrolled at the University of Minnesota, working his way through school with a number of menial jobs. After getting fired from his job as a taxi driver, he started his own transportation company, using his car and wife’s mini-van to transport school children. Today, the company has a fleet of nearly 300 buses, over 300 employees is worth over $35 million. But Tufaa continues to drive one of his own school buses to help him stay connected to his customers and employees.
Alberto “Beto” Perez, founder of Zumba Fitness
Getting in shape because much more fun when Zumba came on the scene. Perez, a former street performer and aerobics instructor, started the fitness regime purely by accident in his home country of Colombia in 1986. He happened to forget his regular music for his class and instead played a mix-tape of salsa and other Latin music. His improvised dance style was an instant hit with his class. Years later, he immigrated to Miami and began creating Zumba fitness DVDsout of a garage. Today, his brand is in thousands of gyms and studios in 180 countries around the world, has a lucrative clothing line, and the company is likely worth over $300 million. Even more important, Zumba is helping millions of Americans and people all over the world become more fit, healthy and happy.