The concept of the American dream has long been a fixture in American society. Rags to riches success stories from individuals like the American born icon Henry Ford, to the Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie, have cemented the distinctly American value that the hard work of an individual transcends cultural and economic barriers. The country prides itself on its merit-based metric of success which allows people from any background to thrive in American society.
Yet in the current political climate, it can be difficult to muster up the same faith in the American dream- especially for immigrants. Rest assured, the anti-immigration rhetoric of the current administration is no match for ambition of immigrants with a strong work ethic and even stronger ideas. Here are some incredible modern immigrant success stories that bring the classic American success story back to life.
Do Won Chang: An Immigrant Success Story
Do Won Chang was born on March 20th, 1954 in post war South Korea. In 1981, Chang moved to California with his wife, Jin Sook Chang, with a small amount of money and big dreams. Chang and his wife worked hard for their success, with Chang working as many as three jobs at once to sustain the couple and start a savings fund. He noticed that many of the customers he serviced at his job as a gas station attendant were wealthy members of the garment industry. This inspired Chang to use the savings that he and his wife had collected during their years working in the United States, and in 1984, just three short years after their arrival in the U.S., Chang and his wife opened a clothing store in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
The Company Takes Off
They called the store Fashion 21. It was an instant success, and they quickly expanded their business over the next few years, rebranding the chain to give it the household name of Forever 21. They added new stores across the state, nation and eventually, the globe. This incredible success culminated in the creation of a clothing empire which, in 2015, boasted 600 individual locations and 30,000 employees. The most recent statistics available for the company from 2017 boast the impressive figure of $3.4 billion in annual revenue.
Indra Nooyi: A Powerful Woman And Leader
Indra Nooyi was born in Madras (present day Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India. While in India, Nooyi completed secondary schooling with exceptionally high marks and went on to earn an impressive three bachelor’s degrees in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics from the Madras Christian College of the University of Madras in 1974. In 1976, she earned an additional Post Graduate Programme Diploma form the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta. Her hard work in school paid off, and in 1978, Nooyi was admitted to the prestigious Yale School of Management, where she would complete her master’s degree in Private and Public Management.
Nooyi’s Takeoff Success
Nooyi’s impressive academic and work resume quickly attracted the attention of employers, and in 1980, she was hired by Boston Consulting Group. She held a strategy position at Motorola, as well as a product management position at Johnson and Johnson. In 1994, she was brought on to the Pepsi Co team where she rapidly climbed the ranks until she was named president and CEO in 2001. Nooyi’s success in the position has led to numerous awards, including a consistent ranking on Forbes’s 100 Most Powerful Women, and her 2018 ranking in CEO world’s list of the World’s Best CEOs.
John Kapoor: From Immigrant to Billionaire
John Kapoor was born and educated in his native country of India. In 1964, Kapoor immigrated to the United States to pursue his goal of completing his graduate studies in the United States. Kapoor’s hard work and ambition paid off, and he earned a fellowship at the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies. He finished his doctorate degree in 1972 and was quickly hired at a pharmaceutical firm called LymphoMed. Kapoor’s natural aptitude for business was quickly recognized, and by 1983, he was in charge of the entire company.
Hard Work Pays Off!
After a decade more of work at LymphoMed, Kapoor was able to sell his shares in the company for a stunning $100 million. He used the proceeds to continue investing and building his fortune, financing two additional drug- manufacturing companies. Kapoor’s decades of hardwork in the healthcare industry have culminated in the assembly of an impressive $1.9 billion fortune.
The New American Dream
For all three of these immigrants, America represented a site of hope, where a person’s background did not matter so long as they put in hard work toward achieving their dreams. Chang, Nooyi, and Meradji are not outliers, either. Immigrants make up a majority of America’s business order despite making up a minority of the total population. The new face of American success is in the immigrants motivated to join the American workforce.
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