An Entrepreneur Par Excellence

Sumaya Ahmed sits downwith her Choto Mama(Kamal Uddin) for an adda on his entrepreneurial jatra from Dhaka to Park Avenue.
By Sumaya Ahmed@Lavishsuma_
People spend their whole lives looking for inspiration and motivation in people, places, and things around them. Luckily, I never had to look too far because I was forever inspired by my own family members. My Choto Mama (Mom’s younger brother) is one of the most inspiring and influential people in my life. His story on how he went from ‘rags to riches’ makes me believe that anything is possible as long as you put your mind and heart to it. Hard-work, dedication, and the willingness to thrive beyond measureis a few ways in which I can describe my uncle, but heis so much more than just a few adjectives. My Choto Mama, Kamal Uddin, immigrated to New York City in 1986 and this is a glimpse of his story in his own words.

“I am a strong believer that people who go around saying they cannot do somethingare only saying itis because they never tried. The words “I can’t do it” doesn’t exist for me because I always try.

When I was fourteen years old, I created my own pen business, and opened my first store in Dhaka by the age of seventeen. Two years after opening my store, I decided I wanted to open a pen factory, so I bought land in Narsingdi. I spent two years and twenty-five thousand dollars trying to make this factory a dream come true, but it didn’t happen. The board eventually decided I was too young to get a loan to build this factory. Although I remember feeling terribly sad, it was that moment that I decided I wanted to move to America.

Coming from extremely humble beginnings, I noticed how underprivileged people were mistreated in Bangladesh. My early stages made me eager to venture out and create a better life for my whole family. It motivated me to make sure no one around me ever goes hungry.

I was twenty-one when I got to New York City. My first job was at the famous restaurant, Kalustyan’s, in Lexington Avenue, owned by Alam, who became my best friend for the next 33 years. I worked with Alam for six months while also making deliveries for another restaurantin downtown Manhattan. Within a year, I received my work permit and got back into business.
I started off with ahot dog business right in front of the New York Public Library. I spent two years selling hot dogs until I finally got my newsstand on 28th street and Park Avenue. This newsstand was 8ftx4ft and I used to standin there for 14hrs a day, 7 days a week. I remember telling myself that I had to do it if I wanted to bring all my siblings and their families to NYC.
Eventually, I got one of the Hudson News franchises that was across the street from my newsstand. With these two stores combined, I brought my family to New York.I worked years to make sure my siblings and their families were all settled and doing well before going ahead and starting a family of my own. I made a lot of sacrifices in my life while trying to build from the ground up, marrying ‘late’ was one of them.
Despite my background, I was never afraid of going after what I desired. I have a lot of confidence in myself and I always do whatever I put my mind to. I’m not afraid to ever ask questions, even if it’s just to get another perspective on things.
I came to NY with almost no money and not knowing the language,and now I own several properties in Park Avenue, Jamaica State, Kew Gardens,and Jackson Heights where I live with my wife and kids. I also now own a store on 333 Park Avenue and have two partnerships witha Deli on 8thAvenue and the Krispy Krunchy Chicken franchise.
Life is too short and we’re given the opportunity to live to our fullest potentials just one time, and so I believe it is important for everyone to do everything they ever desired. For me, my wish was seeing success for all the kids in my family and making sure no one around me ever goes hungry, and I’d say I accomplished just that and more!”

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