Realizing the American dream: Immigrant entrepreneurs

People from all walks of life come to the U.S. to harness their entrepreneurial spirit and live the American dream.

by Bilal Kaiser
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

People from all walks of life come to the U.S to harness the entrepreneurial spirit and live the American dream. As the number of immigrants to the United States increases, it's no surprise that immigrant-owned businesses generate approximately $67 billion in income annually, according to the U.S. Census.

And why not? The opportunities and incentives available to Americans who want to start their own businesses—and the number of immigrants who have done just that—are countless.

Here are stories of three individuals who immigrated to the U.S. and, despite challenges, carved their own paths and found success.

Kamal Dergham, Pita Delight

Although Kamal Dergham never intended to be a business owner—he came to America to study engineering—he saw an opportunity he couldn't refuse. Dergham came to the U.S. from Lebanon and spent seven years working in fast food jobs while he went to school.

Due to financial hardships, his recent restaurant experience, and a lucky break—a family member handed over a failing restaurant—Dergham found his calling.

In 1987, Kamal Dergham started Pita Delight, a Lebanese restaurant tailored to American palettes, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Today, there are seven restaurants all over the state, and the business offers franchising opportunities.

Sheela Murthy, Murthy Law Firm

Some immigrants who find success in the U.S. take their own experiences and think of ways to help others who may be in the same situation. Sheela Murthy left India for America in the 1980s, and in the years since has established herself as one of the authoritative voices in immigration law. The Harvard Law graduate is the founder, president, and managing attorney of the Murthy Law Firm in Baltimore, Maryland.

After law school and starting work as a corporate attorney, Murthy felt there was a void in the field of immigration law and decided to start her own firm.

In addition to providing expertise to businesses and schools, Murthy holds many honors in the legal community, and in 2009, Murthy was honored as one of Maryland's Top 100 Women by The Daily Record. "I am honored to have strengthened and diversified the U.S., alongside a staff of nearly seventy employees," said Murthy about the distinction.

John McGrail, Mayo Group

Immigrants from all over the world flock to the U.S. for its freedom and opportunities, and successful business owners span across industries.

John McGrail, who emigrated from Ireland in the late 1980s, found his niche in real estate. McGrail started purchasing and renovating properties around the Boston area and founded the Mayo Group in 1998.

After many years of investing in properties and locations, the Mayo Group now has more than 200 employees and holdings in several states, including Texas, Florida, and Georgia.

McGrail has received several honors from the Boston business community, and he is active in the area's Irish community. 

Out of 181 countries surveyed, the U.S. ranks No. 3 overall for its ease in doing business and No. 6 in ease of starting a business. Barriers for business ownership, such as getting credit and employing workers, are lower in the U.S. than in most of the world. Add this to the increased financial and personal freedom that many immigrants find in the U.S. and you've got a recipe for success.

With the basics of starting a business covered, immigrants—and citizens—need only determination and hard work to successfully transform the American dream into a reality.

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Bilal Kaiser

About the Author

Bilal Kaiser

Bilal has been writing for LegalZoom since 2008. His areas of interest include entrepreneurship, small business marketin… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.