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Opportunities for New Americans and Small Businesses

On Monday, March 20th, our one event was a forum titled "Opportunities for New Americans/Opportunities for Small Businesses" put on by Clevelandpeople.com, Global Cleveland and the Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and taking place at the Ariel International Center on East 40th Street which also sponsored it.

Ms. Radihika Reddy, CEO of "Ariel Ventures", addressed all of the the attendees for a moment and said that today's topic was one "dear to my heart" because she first came to Cleveland as an immigrant student with very little money and now, today, is the owner of the building where this happening was taking place. She contended that part of the reason for her success was that she received assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in 1995 the same year that she obtained her Green Card. Thus, it was her hope for the day that other immigrant entrepreneurs would acquire useful knowledge that would help them to succeed with their ventures.

She then introduced U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown who was immensely supportive of her when she traveled to India on a trade mission. In the course of his speech, U.S. Senator Brown said that he hoped that the current administration in Washington, D.C. would wake up and see how much immigrants have done for this country. He believed that the Executive Orders issued by U.S. President Trump were "despicable" and shared with us the story about how his son-in-law came to the United States with his mother as refugees from Central America at a time when this country "embraced" refugees. Over the years the mother's English has improved but she still has a noticeable accent and lately has had encounters with hostile people who tell her "to go back to Mexico" even though she is actually from El Salvador. As far as aid for small businesses, he praised the work of Mr. Gil Goldberg, the District Director of the Cleveland office of the SBA, who helped obtain many small business loans for this area. U.S. Senator Brown concluded by saying that the terms "immigrant" and "small business" are closely related because when you put them together you see the creation of lots of jobs.

He was followed by Ms. Caryn Candisky from the office of U.S. Senator Rob Portman who spoke of how the Senator's family was very closely connected with small business and was very well familiar with the challenges that they face; thus, he would do all that he could to assist them. On behalf of U.S. Senator Portman, Ms. Candisky thanked all of the entrepreneurs/budding entrepreneurs who were there with us for "taking risks and employing people."

Mr. Gil Goldberg, the man who U.S. Senator Brown had mentioned earlier, was there and took charge of the program. He, himself, recalled that his own grandfather was a successful small businessperson who could have done even better if he had had the help of an organization like the SBA. Mr. Goldberg then gave an overview of the SBA and explained that assistance was available for Naturalized Citizens, Green Card holders and Permanent Residents of the United States. In addition, there were provisions for non-permanent residents in some cases.

Next he introduced several people from his office who were there to talk about specific subjects who were Mr. Raymond Graves (SBA Loan Programs), Mr. Patrick Hayes (Opportunities for Exporters) and Mr. John Renner (Federal Procurement Opportunities). In the course of the morning, Mr. Goldberg moderated several panels one of them featuring Ms. Katie Van Dyke from Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and Mr. Ken Pim from SCORE who talked about technical assistance to businesses and another panel featuring representatives from lending institutions who talked about credit considerations.

We especially liked panel dubbed the "New American Business Panel"  that featured several foreign-born entrepreneurs, now U.S. citizens, talking about what motivated them to take a risk and start their businesses, how they got their businesses off the ground, and how the SBA helped them.

First, Mr. Yuval Zaliouk, CEO of "Almondina/YZ Enterprises", came to the U.S. from Israel in 1980 to become the Music Director and Conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. After nine years, he was ready for a new challenge so decided to honor his beloved grandmother by seeing if he could form a business around her recipe for delicious cookies. He had absolutely no idea of how the commercial world worked but he had the inspiration to take a sample of the cookie to the manager of a prominent New York gourmet grocery store who loved it and the business was launched. Mr. Zaliouk said that the SBA wasn't needed until much later on when he needed financial assistance to meet government regulations pertaining to food production.

Next, Mr. Jinu Hwang, Owner of "GNU Technology, Inc.",  immigrated to the United States from Korea in 1991 with his family when he was nine years old and became a U.S. citizen only days prior to the 9/11 attacks. He attended OSU and helped his father in his machine shop for several years before he finally started his own machine shop in 2007 with the goal of selling his products to the government, namely to the Dept. of Defense. The first couple of years were quite slow but he persevered with the help of the SBA and today the business is doing quite well with 25 contracts. He talked about how he felt all alone at times in the beginning because there are few Korean immigrant entrepreneurs in the manufacturing field and he had to break a barrier with clients who are used to dealing with larger firms.

Lastly, Mr. Sunil Daga, President of "Wrap Tite, Inc." which makes shipping materials, talked about his own experience. He came here from India in 1993 and earned his MBA from CWRU. He worked for "Avery Dennison" for six years before he ventured out on his own in 2001. Eventually, with the help of the SBA, he bought a building in Solon and now employees 80 people. Mr. Daga wisely advised us all to believe in what we are doing and to develope patience and persistence because we might have a long haul ahead of us. Of course there will be challenges but "what doesn't kill you makes you strong."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC