When did you arrive in the United States and why did you come?
In 1980 at the age of 16. After I lost my dad at the age of 6, my uncle, who was here in the United States, thought this would be a good opportunity for my mother and brothers to start over. My uncle sponsored us and we came. I went to school during the day and worked at night to help support my family.
Rattan Joea, 50
Title: Chief Executive
Company: Prime Time Shuttle, Opoli Technology Inc., Inglewood
At the time, did you intend to eventually return to your home country?
I did not have any intention to move back to Punjab, India, once we moved. I started to feel like this is my country. Coming as a teenager really helped me to assimilate with the culture here. This became my home country.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of back home?
I started my business in the United States because I knew that I could start a business here. Also, I knew that even if I decided to take the risk of starting my own business, I had a good shot of it working out rather than having everything stacked against me.
What’s the hardest thing about starting a business here?
Starting a business is actually the easiest thing. Its running a business that is the hardest thing because as a business owner, you have to wear multiple hats. You need to be good at multiple things from customer service to accounting, and even have an understanding of law and policy. You also need to be inspiring. You have to play the role of a leader but also a servant. It was also a struggle being a minority business owner because you really do not see a lot of people like you or people that you can relate to as easily.
And the easiest?
Just having a dream is enough if you are willing to put in the effort and take the risk.
What have been the biggest surprises?
Where I am today. Working hard in this country has allowed my business to provide over 300 jobs. I never thought I would be making a difference in other people’s lives.
Would you tell someone from your home country to start a business here or there?
I would definitely tell them to start a business here because anyone who has a dream and is willing to put in hard work can succeed. The rules and regulations here help business owners and you can always find people who are willing to mentor or aid you if you ask.
Do you go back often?
Not often. Most of my family has moved to the United States now, but I do make the occasional trip to show my children how different life is in other places.
What did you know about the United States before coming here?
I knew that the United States is full of opportunities. I would see news and movies about how beautiful the United States is and how free the people are. It was always a far-away place.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a foreign-born entrepreneur?
When I started with Prime Time Shuttle as a driver, I met the owner. He had a cup on his table that said “Think Big.” I told the owner, “One day, I will be sitting where you are sitting now.” Four years later, I ended up buying Prime Time Shuttle and becoming the owner.
– Garrett Reim
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