Hoat and Nancy Truong fled Vietnam in desperate boats. In Cleveland, they joined an immigrant business phenomenon

The opportunity presented itself when Hoat and Nancy Truong scouted a restaurant location for a family friend. He decided not to pursue the venture.  The couple faced a decision.

Hoat, a chef, was managing a machine shop. Nancy, an accountant, also had a full time job. They had three children in college. They’re not sure why they took the plunge into entrepreneurship, only that it seemed inevitable.

“Everyone in our family owns something,” Nancy Truong said, laughing as she listed off an assortment of small businesses owned by family members around the country.

Two of her three children moved home from college to help open Pho Thang Café in a first floor space in the Superior Building at East Ninth Street and Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland. Nearly three years later, the restaurant is a success and the family is looking to expand to new locations.

Hoat and Nancy Truong are part of an American immigrant phenomenon. In pursuit of the American dream, they launched a business that created jobs and added vitality and culture to their adopted home.  They’re far from alone.

According to the Kaufmann Foundation, immigrants are nearly twice as likely as native-born Americans to start their own business. In Cuyahoga County, that entrepreneurial zeal extends even to refugees, like the Troungs, who fled Vietnam in desperate boats as children and met in Cleveland. A 2013 study by Chmura Economics & Analytics found the county’s refugees 23 percent more likely than the average Clevelander to launch a business.

“You want to own your own business,” said Hoat, who cooked in local Chinese restaurants for years, always desiring to create an authentic Vietnamese menu.

“I don’t know the reason, honestly,” Nancy Truong added. “We just did it. If you can– do it. If you think you can’t–try. Whatever, the outcome, still you’re very proud of yourself.”

That attitude has fueled a constellation of ethnic shops and restaurants across Northeast Ohio. Recently, Global Cleveland compiled a listing of immigrant and refugee owned businesses in the region. The roster is dominated by restaurants but it also includes markets and bakeries, breweries and beer gardens, business services and soccer clubs.

We invite you to explore the multicultural city by supporting our news neighbors and shopping and dining at immigrant owned businesses. Click here to see our list: Diversity at Home

If you see an immigrant-owned business that we missed, please let us know by emailing bob@globalcleveland.org. We know the business listing will grow, just as long as immigrants and refugees come to Cleveland to pursue their dreams.