immigrant entrepreneur

Rochester Rising Episode 18: "Start Something" with Minnesotan Pakistani Entrepreneurs

This week’s episode comes straight from the “Start Something” series from Rochester’s Global Entrepreneurship week. This informational session was about getting started with the small business community. The event featured three Pakistani entrepreneurs from Minneapolis sharing their stories: Arif Altaf, Seema Altaf and Caldoun Abuhakel. This event was sponsored by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

Arif Altaf has an extensive career in healthcare management. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at Saint Mary’s University and Cardinal Stritch University. Mr. Altaf shared the top things he felt it takes to become a successful entrepreneur which included understanding why you want to start a particular business, obtaining legal and accounting advice, and having an exit strategy.

Seema Altaf has been in the United States for 25 years. She said that as an entrepreneur you have to have a dream, even if you never achieve it. Her dream was to start a fashion boutique, but her parents also stressed the importance of obtaining an advanced education in case her business dreams did not pan out. Her story of entrepreneurship involved a delicate balance of these two pieces.

Coldoun Abuhakel also spoke (but was not included in the podcast). He came to this country without knowing any English or having a college degree. His first job was as a cashier at a gas station, and even borrowed money from his boss to start his first business at the age of 23. Years later, Coldoun wanted to help his son’s school serve better lunch food and stop losing money. He ended up successfully overhauling the school’s lunch program founded a business called Done Right Food that serves 7,000-10,000 healthy school lunches each day.