Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Social Entrepreneur

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Social Entrepreneur

Article excerpt

DESPITE THE worsening economy, Arab-American restaurateur and social activist Andy Shallal's Busboys and Poets restaurants are always full. Even in these uncertain times, Shallal continues to run his business empire as a social entrepreneur-and remains in the black. As a result, organizers of the fifth annual Green Festival, held Nov. 8 in Washington, DC, asked Shallal to share his experiences with participants.

Shallal clearly is proud of his role as social entrepreneur, which he defines as an individual who identifies social ills and attempts to change them through business. "A social entrepreneur looks at issues and thinks 'how can I fix these issues without having to always look for funding?'" Shallal explained. His ultimate goal, he told his audience, is to create a new business plan which others can emulate.

Shallal's exposure to the world of business began soon after he arrived in America with his Iraqi family in 1966. His father had been sent to Washington as the Arab League's representative and, as the political climate in Iraq changed, he decided to stay. First his father thought of teaching Arabic, Shallal recalled, but then he realized that to be truly successful and free in America one has to work for oneself. The restaurant business wasn't really the right fit for Shallal's father, but Andy felt right at home running the business and serving their customers. In time Andy Shallal left the family business to pursue his education. He was accepted into medical school, but in the end returned to his first love.

Shallal eventually began living the typical Arab-American dream of being a successful businessman, but wanted to take it a step further. "After 9/11 I found people out there whom I didn't understand," he said. Although he became a U.S. citizen in 1983, the Iraqi American found it hard to give up the national identity of his birth. He took an oath of alliance to the United States, Shallal said, and values and cherishes this country for what it tries to stand for. So instead of keeping quiet after 9/11, as many in the Arab-American community did, he went into action.

Shallal decided to create a place where people like him-people concerned about the course the country was taking-could come together. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.