From Refugees to Bay Area Entrepreneurs: How One Family Started Over

November 5, 2018. This article tells the story of a Syrian family who fled the civil war in Jordan and was resettled in Oakland, California where they are now owners of a catering business, Old Damascus Fare, that makes Syrian food. The family expressed that they hope to own a restaurant in the future. The author highlights the FPI and Center for American Progress report, “Syrian Immigrants: Doing Well and a Strong Receiving Community for Refugees,” which found that Syrian immigrants are 11 percent of all business owners. The author argues that this family, who still is facing financial challenges, is an example of hardworking refugees.

With just 30 days notice, the Rawas family was plucked from their temporary home in Jordan, where they’d fled the Syrian civil war, and resettled in Oakland. As refugees, they knew no one, had no job prospects and didn’t speak a word of English.

Three years later, Mohammed Aref Rawas, Rawaa Kasedah and their four children are running a budding catering business that serves authentic Syrian food such as smoked basmati rice, falafel and fattoush salad. They’ve hired their first employee. Their clients include big tech companies. And the days when starting over seemed impossible are far behind them.

An estimated 11 percent of all Syrian immigrants  in the labor force are business owners — nearly four times the rate of U.S.-born business owners, according to a study by the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress. A significant part of that success has been the ability to master the English language, the report said.

Meanwhile, a 2016 study by the Institute that followed Bosnian, Burmese, Hmong and Somali refugees nationwide found that they too moved up the occupational ladder and started businesses after settling in the U.S. Thirty one out of every 1,000 Bosnian refugees in the labor force are business owners, compared with 26 out of every 1,000 Burmese, 22 out of 1,000 Hmong and 15 out of every 1,000 Somalis, the study found.

Here is the link to The Mercury News.

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