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Yassin Terou, Owner of Yassin's Falafel House
Minority-Owned Business Finalist
To better highlight the impressive members of the small business community, we sat down with the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists to learn more about their startup stories, the challenges they have faced, and what the future of business looks like to them. We chatted with Yassin Terou, owner of Yassin's Falafel House, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based mediterranean restaurant that makes customers and community members feel at home. Here is what Yassin had to say (what follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity):
Q: What inspired the creation of your business? What problem does it help to solve?
When I came to America from Syria, I wanted to help connect people in the community with one another. Food has always served as a bridge between communities and people, so I knew that by offering food from home, made from the heart, I could encourage these connections. My restaurants help to bring the community together, increase understanding between people, and show how hard refugees work and what an impact they make in the local community.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you faced while building your company and how did you overcome it?
Just like every entrepreneur, funding was a challenge, but I also faced a language barrier and learning the intricacies of the American food codes and laws. I sought help from community members and those in local government, and by taking it step-by-step, day-by-day, I was able to improve my language skills and my understanding of how to run a restaurant in America. I also was fortunate to have people that believed in my mission and helped me get my restaurant started financially.
Q: When it comes to your business, what has been your proudest moment to date?
So far, my proudest moment was being recognized as the 2018 Reader’s Digest “Nicest Place in America.” This recognition is important because it shows that being involved in the community and demonstrating love and support for all people has a positive impact on everyone. We support everyone, regardless of their origin, color, religion, etc., and now every person knows they are welcome at Yassin’s Falafel House.
Q: What does American entrepreneurship mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur in America, especially as a refugee or asylum-seeker, is a second chance at life. Entrepreneurship here is a purpose, a dream that can be achieved. Anyone with ambition and the drive to find the resources they need can be successful in America, no matter where they came from.
Q: If selected as the winner of the Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, how will you invest the $25,000 grand prize?
The $25,000 grand prize would be invested in two ways. I am working on ways for people to share their stories and ways to build more bridges between people, which is a driving force of the business. I would also invest into the program I’ve started to help formerly homeless people find jobs and get back on their feet.
To learn more about the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists, click here.