International Institute of Akron
When Uzbek refugee Bahrom Abdurasulov fled his war-torn country in 2005, he knew re-establishing his life in the United States would be a formidable challenge.
He had limited English skills, no local support system, and very few resources. What he never imagined was how quickly that bleak picture would be completely transformed.
Five years later, Abdurasulov has traded in his English dictionary for a business plan. The Tallmadge resident is now the proud owner and founder of Golden Valley Restaurant in Canton. The restaurant opened its doors in March 2010 and specializes in traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine, with menu items ranging from shish kabobs and falafel to cumin-seasoned chicken and lamb dumplings.
"We have good food at a great price," Abdurasulov boasted.
But the journey hasn’t always been easy, and Abdurasulov credits a local nonprofit with paving the way for his entrepreneurial success. From the time he relocated from Kentucky to Summit County, Ohio, the International Institute of Akron has been an invaluable resource to Abdurasulov.
Case workers at the Institute helped him scout potential locations, review leases and build the language skills he would need to run a restaurant. By the time they referred him to Akron SCORE for free business training, Abdurasulov was well on his way to becoming an entrepreneur.
"He didn’t know anything about the American ways of doing business, and to not be afraid to start, that’s impressive," said Natalya Mytareva, the Institute’s communications programs director. "We’re very proud of him."
Owning a restaurant has returned to Abdurasulov the independence and self-sufficiency he values. As a businessman in Uzbekistan, Abdurasulov took pride in supporting his wife and three children.
But upon his arrival in the United States, he had to re-start his career in entry-level factory jobs. Opening the Golden Valley Restaurant with the guidance of the International Institute has restored that pride.
"It is very rewarding to know that when he first arrived, we had to teach him how to shop, how to rent an apartment and apply for a job, and now he has a restaurant," Mytareva said. "It’s amazing."
A $10,000 Community Fund grant from Akron Community Foundation this year will enable the International Institute to give refugees like Abdurasulov the same opportunities.
Linda Bilal, a case worker who focuses on families from Uzbekistan, said her primary goal is to help refugees regain their independence and ultimately use their talents to enrich their new communities.
"These are people who are independent thinkers. They’re highly skilled, great workers," she said. "By having their own business, they become valuable contributors to society and achieve their dreams."
Abdurasulov is certainly achieving his. Although he acknowledges that he is "still learning a lot of things," he hasn’t let that stop him from setting lofty goals.
In the future, he hopes to purchase farmland that will provide his restaurant with fresh produce and meat. He will also continue to seek out and employ other Uzbek refugees.
By giving fellow refugees a foothold to start their new lives, Abdurasulov is able to return the kindness he received from his friends at the Institute.
"Losing your home and loved ones is very hard. But the people at the International Institute gave me what I needed," he said. "I am grateful."