Grit, Wits and Good Old American Values: Refugee and Immigrant Owned Businesses Revitalizing American Communities

Grit, Wits and Good Old American Values:

Refugee and Immigrant Owned Businesses Revitalizing American Communities

Immigrants contribute disproportionately to American entrepreneurship, representing 27.5% of all entrepreneurs while only 13% of the population. But immigrants aren’t just creating more businesses, they’re creating more successful ones. A Harvard Business School study showed that immigrant-founded companies perform better in terms of employment growth, grow at a faster rate, and are more likely to survive long term. The contributions of immigrant, refugee, and asylees in creating businesses and jobs and revitalizing American communities often goes unnoticed.

This event, co-hosted by Impact Capital Forum and the Business Center for New Americans, will showcase the works of successful members of these groups and how they bring out the best in us.

RSVPs are requested for this free event.


6:00-6:30pm: Registration & Networking with appetizers & drinks
6:35-6:45 Welcome remarks by Toby Singh Baba, AVP & Community Partnership Manager, Santander Bank and introductions by Kwame Marfo, co-founder and Managing Partner at the Africa Empowerment Fund and BCNA Board Member
6:45-8:10pm: Presentation & Panel led by Michael Rain
8:10-8:40pm: Reception/drinks with panelists & attendees


Michael Rain (Moderator) – Michael is the creator of The ENODI Project, which highlights the lives of first-generation people and immigrants of African, Caribbean and Latin descent. He is a visual and written storyteller whose writing, photography and film work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, Upscale Magazine, BRIC TV and the Harlem Arts Festival. Michael gave a talk that was featured on the homepage of and is approaching 1 million views. He has also delivered remarks and moderated panels at major events and conferences at the U.S. Department of State, Harvard Business School, The Wharton School, Columbia University, NYU Stern School of Business and Google. Michael earned a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations from Columbia University. He is Ghanaian-American, a lifelong New Yorker and Brooklyn native. Click here to see Michael’s TED Talk.

Murat Erdogan (Panelist) – Murat is the owner and manager of Verde Café and Lounge, a restaurant in Brooklyn that serves Northern Italian cuisine. Mr. Erdogan came to the US from Turkey when he was 18 years old and has over 20 years of experience in the restaurant business.

Mariemeta Keita (Panelist) – Mariemeta owns and operates Keita West African Market, a grocery and convenience store that is located in Brooklyn. Mariemeta came to the US from the Ivory Coast in 1992 as a refugee. This thriving business has enabled Mariemeta to not only provide her community with a store which carries ethnic products that they are familiar with, but it has enabled her to buy a home and raise four children and several grandchildren.

Archana Pokhrel (Panelist) – Archana is the owner of the new day spa Divya Dristi on the Upper East Side. This day spa specializes in manicures, pedicures, and facial treatments. Ms. Pokhrel, who is from Nepal, worked in customer service at Time Warner and Verizon and then for a number of years at another spa, before opening Divya Dristi.

Shah Yafi (Panelist) – Shah was a General Manager at a 7-11 only one block away from his future business, LIC Deli Gourmet/Food Cave, in Long Island City. Working in the neighborhood for three years, Mr. Yafi noticed that the majority of office workers and residents of the neighborhood purchased meals at 7-11. Despite 7-11’s failure to provide variety, freshness, or quality, the 7-11 store he managed served nearly 1,800 customers per day. He noticed increased construction and foot traffic in the area and saw an opportunity not only to provide fresh, high-quality, affordable food to his community, but also to become a small business owner and achieve the American dream.

Rahim Diallo (Panelist) – Rahim is the co-founder of Ginjan Bros, Inc. along with his brother, Mohammed. Ginjan Bros, Inc. is a NY based company that develops and markets African inspired foods and beverages. Rahim and his brother noticed the lack of representation of the products they grew up on in their native Guinea and an overall under-representation of African fare in mainstream markets and chose to fill this void. Today their first offering, Ginjan, can be found in mainstream grocers like Whole Foods, Fresh Direct, and soon Their vision is to help create a world where African food, drink, and culture is accessible and enjoyable to people everywhere.

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