IBRAHIM VAJZOVIC is a refugee residing in the St. Louis area for almost 20 years now. Originally from Bosnia, he and his wife, Fazira, fled to Missouri in 1994 during the Bosnian War. At the time, the Vajzovic’s spoke no English and left behind their successful careers when they came to St. Louis.
They were sponsored by a friend through the International Institute. Nearly 60,000 Bosnians currently reside in the St. Louis area. Ibrahim was an engineer in Bosnia, but when he came to Missouri, he took entry level jobs and worked to learn English before opening his own business. He also chose to further his education and obtained a master’s and a doctorate in business management from Webster University, where he now teaches. Now he and his family own three businesses: First Bosnian Insurance Agency, Vajzovic Real Estate LLC, and a recently started trucking business that their son operates.
“We own more than 50 properties in residential neighborhoods and have created 50 jobs in the last 10 years,” Ibrahim says. “So far, Missouri has been a good place to live. We have had some struggles and some great times. Overall, we have a steady line and have continuous growth that employs lots of people and pays lots of taxes. It has truly been a win-win situation: good schools for our kids, enjoying life, and building a future for ourselves and our children. This is what America is about.”
Ibrahim’s most valuable tip to anyone looking to settle in Missouri is to learn the language; perhaps, there is no success without a shared language. “Learn about the culture; it will make you less afraid to do the business,” he says. “Adjusting to the environment, being brave, and having courage to start the business: you will succeed with those pillars. America has the best business environment in the world.”
Ibrahim is looking for future ventures in Missouri and elsewhere.“The government needs to pay more attention to opportunities,” Ibrahim says. “Refugees can be great connections to their home countries, and we need to utilize them as ambassadors to other nations to foster more trade and business between the countries. We must know more about world powers and be willing to work with the other countries to foster relationships. We must look outside of the box.”
SOURCE: Missouri Business Magazine
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