This month, WFPL’s Phillip Bailey has been talking with immigrant entrepreneurs about the struggles, sacrifices and successes of starting a business in a new country.
So far, he has interviewed four entrepreneurs, who each have their own reasons for immigrating and who have had varying levels of success.
(Click on the names below to read more and to hear the interviews.)
After two years of civil war in her birthplace, Sierra Leone, Kadiatu Jalloh (pictured) emigrated with her family to Gambia. She worked there as a maid for a few years, saving enough money to move to New York City. On the advice of a friend from Gambia, she moved to Louisville in 1998. Kadiatu worked as a housekeeper and waitress until a problem with INS led to her arrest. Kadiatu eventually filed the necessary paperwork to stay in the United States, but while her status was in flux, she was unable to work, so she made ends meet by cooking at home and selling her dishes through word of mouth. She now operates Maa Sha-Allah, a West African restaurant in Louisville’s Buechel neighborhood.
Yung Nguyen fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. He had family living in America and he had studied the United States in school, so he ended up in Louisville. Nguyen studied at JCTCS, then in the engineering program at the University of Louisville, where he met Mike Davis, a fellow student who shared his entrepreneurial ambitions. Together, they developed VINE, a system that notifies crime victims when their perpetrators are released from custody and when court dates are scheduled.
Morocco native Eddie Maamry was working on a cruise ship when he met JoAnne, the woman who would become his wife. She lived in Louisville, and he eventually joined her here. In 2007 he opened Road to Morocco, a restaurant and bar on the first floor of the Henry Clay building. Eddie says location, along with the economic downturn that affected most businesses, is responsible for the failure of Road to Morocco.
Papa Gueye came to Louisville in 1997 on the advice of a friend, who told him it was a nice place to live. Along the way, he noticed he and others in his community were having a hard time accessing one of the comforts of home; West African food was almost impossible to find in Louisville. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur myself,” he explains. Gueye now owns the African Millennium Market on Bardstown Road.
One interview remains. It will be broadcast and posted online Tuesday. At noon on Tuesday, WFPL News will host a public forum with immigrant entrepreneurs. The forum will be at Louisville Public Media, 619 S. 4th Street. Doors will open at 11:30 and guests are welcome to bring a lunch.