Four decades ago, when living overseas, we constantly had requests from national friends and colleagues who wanted support to come and study in the States. As an organization we struggled with this issue because a significant minority took advantage of the opportunity, over-stayed, and became illegal residents even while the majority returned to their native-born countries and provided critical leadership and technical skills.
Last week three men caught a flight from San Diego to Grand Rapids for the specific purpose to meet our Business Connect team. Taju Abdulaziz and Feysal Kassim were both born in Ethiopia and immigrated to the States legally as children. Today they are in their thirties, United States citizens, and own their own limousine businesses. Rudy Shaffer, a successful retired business owner, and one of our key partners, encouraged them to meet us, see our products, and talk about an Ethiopian collaboration.
They have a passion and dream to bring our safe and clean water products back home to their communities. They have already sought and received the endorsement of their Ministry of Health, planned a distribution system, and raised the funds to purchase an initial order of 2,000 filters. This kind of business model raises the bar for all of us. It means we must have an excellent product. It means we are operating with the full knowledge and authorization of their government as well as meeting and exceeding the Ministry of Health standards. It means we are not looking at a short term “Feel Good” distribution but a long-term strategic business partnership.
It seems to me that we all have a need to know where we came from, identify with our home community, and give back something of value. I love it when we can be a part of making that happen.
Founder of Business Connect