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Viewpoint: A steppingstone to the American Dream

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Natalia Olson-Urtecho Guest Columnist

Natalia Olson-Urtecho
Guest Columnist

Last month, Americans of every (star and) stripe came together in their own way to celebrate the 240th birthday of our great nation. Some attended fireworks shows, some grilled out with their families and friends, while others made their way down crowded highways to beach and mountain. Still others put on their work clothes and continued chasing their piece of the American Dream – be it punching a clock or running their own business.

Amongst all of those in every category are millions of immigrants who came to the United States because they know this is the land of  “anything is possible.”  This is the land of the immigrant’s dream – we are a country of immigrants, after all “¦ people who have come seeking a better life in the land of opportunity. We at the U.S. Small Business Administration know that dream, and every day we work to make it reality for all.

Across the United States, immigrants are starting and building successful businesses that create good American jobs and promote our country’s economic growth. These businesses form the fabric of our communities, and are part of our uniquely American heritage. According to Time magazine, immigrants to the U.S. are twice as likely to become entrepreneurs, and 44 percent of new tech startups in Silicon Valley had at least one immigrant founder: Google’s Sergey Brin, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk are each serial entrepreneurs who founded companies worth tens or hundreds of billions of dollars and employ tens of thousands.

Immigrants, or their children, started more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, which collectively employ over 10 million people and generate annual revenue of $4.2 trillion. Right here in Delaware, immigrant-owned businesses like the Sussex Pain Relief Center operated by Dr. Manonmani Antony are fostering vitality, creativity and diversity in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Here in Delaware, Dr. Antony tapped into business financing and mentoring through the SBA and SBA-backed score to take her from successful physician to small business success story. In 1993, Dr. Antony found herself a stay-at-home mother and housewife in Canada, having been forced to emigrate from her native Sri Lanka by that nation’s civil war. Dr. Antony left her medical career behind in Sri Lanka, where she was a practicing physician and hospital director. With this forced “life re-boot” along with a post-immigration divorce behind her, Dr. Antony focused on building a new future on a new continent. She completed a residency in anesthesiology at Texas Tech University, followed by a fellowship in pain management at The University of Maryland.  But, once again, the future took an unexpected turn, and difficulty in securing a U.S. work visa forced Dr. Antony to return to Canada in 2003. Undaunted, Dr. Antony continued her work as an anesthesiologist in Canada.  In 2005, Dr. Antony secured a work visa as a pain physician for Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware.

Finally, the future began to open up again.

Once she was stateside again, Dr. Antony set her sites on opening her own medical practice. She found SCORE mentors to guide her through the process of becoming a business owner, mentoring her as a de facto advisory board and plugging her in to formal coursework on the ins and outs of business ownership. With newfound business expertise to match her medical know-how, Dr. Antony landed start-up financing and opened the doors of her own Georgetown practice – the Sussex Pain Relief Center – in July 2010. And, just four short years later, the flood of patients treating with her growing practice spurred her to expand the practice. So, in May 2014, Dr. Antony constructed her own 8,000-square-foot building to house her expanded practice. Today, Dr. Antony actively treats thousands of patients in her Delmarva practice, providing solid jobs and comprehensive pain treatment to Delmarva residents, right in their hometown.

The Sussex Pain Relief Center is just one success story that goes to show that the American Dream isn’t just a dream; it’s an achievable goal. We at the Small Business Administration can help you reach those goals.  

Natalia Olson-Urtecho is Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Appointed in 2012 by President Obama, she is responsible for delivery and management of SBA’s small business programs, financial assistance, and business development initiatives throughout the mid-Atlantic.

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