Immigrant Reminds us America IS Great
It seems everyone has heard of sriracha, the ubiquitous spicy sauce. It’s not my favorite, but only because I discovered another tasty brand at Aldi’s (a clue that we are bargain shoppers).
However, I had not known of the 2013 documentary on the sauce and its maker, Huy Fong Foods, until I picked up a copy of the DVD at the public library.
Likely, most of you will be more inclined to watch it online. Whichever form you choose, it will be some of the most pleasant 35 minutes you will ever spend in front of a screen.
Sriracha is the quintessential American success story. Not only is it wildly popular, but it’s achieved cult status with no advertising.
Nor—at the time of the making of the film—a Facebook or Twitter presence.
That is no longer true (you can see both FB and Twitter notes regularly). I guess it was inevitable that a member of the younger generation would persuade founder David Tran to join the modern world.
Still, I chuckled when he talked about the lack of any of what everyone would see as the necessary elements of any company’s success in the 21st century.
“No time,” Tran said of one such omission, explaining why he never placed ads. And, with sales increasing then at a 20 percent clip per year, why would he?
The film goes beyond the story of Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant who spent weeks at sea before Hong Kong authorities finally allowed his overcrowded vessel to dock.
It traces the original sriracha sauce to its home in Thailand and reviews a plethora of other products that are on the market.
Yet the story revolves around Tran and his family-owned and operated business. Sometimes I think Americans get so inured to the opportunities available in our great nation that it takes someone coming in from the outside to remind us.
Shortly before watching the film, I had seen an article that commented that immigrants were more likely to start new businesses than Americans.
So, I poked around and found this October 2016 piece from the Harvard Business Review headlined “Why Are Immigrants More Entrepreneurial?”
The report detailed how immigrants in the U.S. are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born citizens. They represent only 13 percent of the population but 27.5 percent of the entrepreneurs.
According to the HBR article, one-fourth of all technology and engineering companies started in the U.S. between 2006-2012 had at least one immigrant co-founder. Similar figures exist in the majority of 69 other countries surveyed.
As a refresher course, the article listed such immigrants as Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), and Sergey Brin (Google). All have one thing in common: extensive cross-cultural experience.
To this scholarly research, I would add my own experience. My late grandfather emigrated from Ukraine to western Canada in the late 1800s.
Family accounts say he was the local postmaster, successful farmer, and operator of a general store until the Great Depression dealt him a serious setback.
Yet, because he had the gumption to get up and get of the country that oppressed its people, my mother would later meet my father just before the end of World War II—and become an American citizen.
And now, I am here, grateful for the way that life turned out because Grandpa saw fit to be an immigrant.
We should never let irrational fears of “those people” keep us from experiencing the benefits newcomers can bring to our nation.