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Heritage Month: Arab Americans as Entrepreneurs

posted on: Apr 6, 2016


BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

Arab Americans have been contributing to the U.S. economy since the late 1800s with their natural commercial skills. As one of the most successful minority ethnic groups in the U.S., Arab Americans have made a name for themselves as entrepreneurs.

One of the most notable Arab American entrepreneurs that all Americans are aware of is Steve Jobs, the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Jobs was the face of Apple until his passing in 2011 and is credited with developing one of the most successful technology companies the U.S. has ever had.

Another significant Arab American entrepreneur is Farouk Shami whose line of spa and hair-care products can be seen in homes all over the world. Farouk Systems is known for its high-quality professional hair care lines, making Shami a revered member of the Arab American community.

Even before the recognizable entrepreneurs such as Jobs and Shami, it was the small and medium sized, and often unknown, businesses that gave Arab Americans their sound reputation. Some exceptional Arab American entrepreneurs include: late nineteenth century peddlers that turned into iconic clothing stores, such as Hajjar’s Big and Tall, Farah Clothing, and JOSEPH; Phil Jaber who has trendy cafes across the country called Philz Coffee; publisher Thomas Nelson who is the largest publisher of the Bible; Paul Orfalea who founded the largest international copying service stores, Kinko’s; and Albert George who is the nation’s largest ice cream cone producer. 

These businesses are often extremely successful and long-standing due to one factor: education. Nearly half of American entrepreneurs in general do not have higher degrees. Arab Americans, on the other hand, are more than twice as likely to have a master’s degree compared to the rest of the population, which is why only 1.7% of Arab American entrepreneurs rely on public assistance compared to 7% of the non-Arab population, and 64% of Arab Americans own incorporated businesses compared to only 27% of all entrepreneurs. Additionally, Arab American businesses remain profitable because Arab culture strongly embraces sacrifice and financial support within the family where members will pool their resources together to ensure growth.

These business success indicators are only a few examples of how Arab Americans have achieved their place in the U.S. as some of the best entrepreneurs. From small markets to mass-produced computers, Arab Americans are prosperous in whatever they choose to do.

See all articles about National Arab American Heritage Month here.