Immigrant Development Center Helps New Americans Start Their Own Businesses
The center helps with everything from business plans to getting loans
FARGO, N.D. — The pursuit of the American dream is alive and well in Fargo–Moorhead. One organization called the Immigrant Development Center helps new Americans gain their economic footing.
Its executive director, Fowzia Adde, came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1997.
“I was happy. I was dancing happy. I was too excited. I love this country before I came to this country,” she said.
When she settled in Washington, D.C., the reality of living in America settled in.
“I stand outside my apartment for three consecutive days, looking for someone from my ethnicity. At least East African, at least Ethiopian, at least Somali, somebody who is my culture. I’m looking, cars passing, people walking by,” she said.
It was the kindness of people who lived near her that made her feel welcome in her new home.
“My Vietnamese neighbors, they welcomed me, they were cooking for me, they were making me feel comfortable, understanding how to use all the electronic stuff in my apartment, but it was not enough. I was looking for someone who could communicate with me in my language,” she said.
She finally did find someone who helped her go to English class and get her first job.
Fast forward 6 years, and Adde helped start the Immigrant Development Center.
It helps new Americans launch their businesses by guiding them through the process of writing a business plan and getting loans.
Adde says having immigrant–owned businesses here brings more diverse products and services to people who are looking for them in the F–M area.
“I was working in a production line and always we talked about, we always get our stuff in Minneapolis, we drive four hours for food, spices, clothing, so we thought about having those businesses here,” she said.
Now, Haytham Al Saegh is part of that group of local businesses. He and his family emigrated from Iraq to Lebanon in 2004. They moved to the U.S. in 2009.
“This part was very, very, very difficult, because [we] don’t know about USA system. How to open checking account, credit card process, everything. That was first part, very, very difficult,” he said.
“Coming here in December was very difficult. Walking out, seeing on the snow from the airport, that was really hard. And then other than that, it was just trying to take care of everything. We had a lot of help right when we came here, which was really nice. Our first steps were just finding a job, a way to fund the family and be able to move forward,” Ali, Haytham’s son, said.
The bought F–M International Foods from the previous owner. F–M International Foods sells products from all over the world, and that gives customers a little taste of home.
“We tried to add in our old home feel to it, that’s why we get a lot of Iraqi food, a lot of Lebanese food as well. A lot of people have been really thankful for it because it reminds them of their childhood or it reminds them of a simpler time before moving and having all these challenges in their life,” Ali said.
He says his advice to immigrants looking to start their own businesses is to ask around and look for resources to help you.
Adde also says if you’re new to the country, you should take one day at a time and believe in yourself.
“If you don’t speak the language and you are in new country, but you are dreamer and you know what you’re doing, and you know the kind of business you want to open, and you want to achieve American Dream, why not go ahead and do it,” she said.
Al Saegh also says Lutheran Social Services played a big role in helping his family find their footing in the United States.