First Person: From Refugee To Proprietor
The federal government is still debating the future of immigration in the U.S. Meanwhile, newcomers in the San Diego region are moving forward with their lives, leaving an impact on our economy. Analysis of local data released this month showed immigrants are more likely than native born populations to start their own business.
That includes Queentabel Banka of Cameroon. Banka said her longtime dream of owning a hair braiding business became reality when she called about a space for rent in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood.
"I ask myself, 'Can I really pay this bill?’' and something tell me, 'Be strong, God is going to do something for you,'" Banka said.
The single mom launched Banka Hair Braiding in November 2016 after saving money from one-off hair braiding appointments and her job as a caregiver.
"I didn’t take loan from nobody. I didn’t take loan from no bank...I want to work hard because I don’t want to go into something I don't know because I’m new in U.S," said Banka, whose native language is French.
She said she is now working with the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association and the Small Business Development Center to expand her business by adding a school to teach her craft to others.
OUR FIRST-PERSON SERIES FEATURE STORIES TOLD BY SANDY HIGGINS IN THEIR OWN WORDS. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS STILL DEBATING THE FUTURE OF IMMIGRATION IN THE U.S. MEANWHILE NEWCOMERS IN SAN DIEGO ARE MOVING FORWARD WITH THEIR LIVES LEAVING AN IMPACT ON OUR ECONOMY. A NEW DATA ANALYSIS RELEASE THIS MONTH SHOWED IMMIGRANTS ARE MORE LIKELY THAN NATIVEBORN POPULATIONS TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS. THAT INCLUDES QUEEN BEYOND FROM KIMMEL ROAD WITH A LONG TIME DREAM OF OWNING A HAIR BRAIDING BUSINESS COMING REALITY WHEN SHE CALLED ABOUT A SPACE FOR RENT IN CITY HEIGHTS. HERE IS HER STORY. >> HE OPENED THE DOORS AND IT IS BIG. CAN I REALLY PAY THIS BILL? SOMETHING TOLD ME -- BE STRONG. GOD WILL DO SOMETHING TO YOU AND FOR YOU. MY NAME IS QUINT PRIYANKA. >> I AM A SINGLE MOTHER. I LOVE BRAIDING HAIR. MAKING ANY WOMAN LOOK MORE BEAUTIFUL. BRAIDING HERE GIVE ME A HAPPINESS. I REALLY DON'T LEARN HOW TO BRAID. IT IS LIKE A GIFT FROM GOD. I JUST GET UP HAVING THE TALENT, JUST TRY IT. I SEE ANYTHING LIKE A NEW STYLE, I JUST TRY TO DO WHAT EVER IS LOOKING LIKE AND I GET IT. >> BEFORE I HAVE A LITTLE BIT LIKE $600 A MONTH. THINGS WERE NOT GOING GOOD. >> I SAID ONE DAY I SAW THIS PLACE FOR RENT AND I CALLED AND I SAID CAN I TALK TO THE MANAGER. THE GUY SAID I AM THE MANAGER. WHERE ARE YOU? >> I AM RIGHT IN MY HOUSE. I AM COMING TO SEE YOU RIGHT THERE. BOOM. KEY COME. A WEEK LATER HE CALLED ME. CAN WE DO A CONTRACT AND I SAID YES . I PAY HIM THE MONEY AND I START PAINTING, PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER. I GO DOWNTOWN AND I TELL THEM I WANT TO GET A BUSINESS LICENSE AND A BRAIDING LICENSE. AND HE ASKED ME TO PAY $103 A YEAR AND I GOT MY LICENSE. I DID NOT TAKE A LOAN FROM NOBODY. I SAID GOD I WANT TO BE THERE BY YOUR DREAM. I WANT TO WORK HARD. I DON'T WANT TO GO INTO SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW BECAUSE I AM NEW IN THE U.S. I HAVE BEEN IN THE U.S. FOR TWO YEARS AND FIVE MONTHS. I AM A REFUGEE. I DO NOT WANT TO GO TO PROBLEM THAT I DO NOT FIND MYSELF LOANING MONEY THAT I DO NOT NOW HAVE TO PAY BACK. I DO NOT KNOW HOW THE BUSINESS WILL GO THROUGH SO MY DREAM IS I WANT TO WORK HARD AND GET WHAT I WANT. WE HAVE A WAR IN MY COUNTRY. REALLY SERIOUS WAR IN MY COUNTRY RIGHT NOW. EVEN MY FAMILY IS NOT SAFE RIGHT NOW, BUT I THINK GOD I AM HERE TODAY SO I CAN WORK HARD TO HELP MY FAMILY BACK HOME. THEY ARE KILLING PEOPLE EVERY DAY IN MY COUNTRY. IT IS VERY HARD. IT IS A LONG STORY. I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO SURVIVE. IT IS HARD BUT I REALLY THINK GOD TODAY I FIND SOMEWHERE I CAN FIND HAPPINESS. THAT IS WHY I AM WORKING HARD, TO GET MY DREAMS. I THINK GOD FOR EVERYTHING THAT I AM HERE TODAY. >> SOMETIMES I GO OUT AT THE MALL AND THE SUPERMARKET AND TRY TO GIVE MY CARD. SOMETIMES PEOPLE PASS THEM AROUND. THEY WANT TO COME IN OR DO YOU DO BRAIDING DO MY MY CARD? SOMETIMES I PUT IT ON THE FACEBOOK OR THE INSTAGRAM TRYING TO GET MORE CUSTOMERS PICKY WANT TO BE THE BEST BECAUSE YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SAY I WENT TO QUEENS SHOP. MY HAIR WAS VERY NICE. >> THERE IS COMPETITION PICKY WANT TO DO THE BEST TO MAKE IT LOOK GOOD. AND DOING HERE IS LIKE IF YOU COME TO DO YOUR HAIR RIGHT NOW AND YOU DON'T LIKE IT, OKAY. QUEEN THIS IS NOT THE WAY I WANTED. SORRY. I WILL DO IT AGAIN TO MAKE YOU LOOK HAPPY BECAUSE MY GOAL IS TO MAKE YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL. GOD BLESSED ME. I TRY TO MAKE THE SHOP THE BEST I CAN. BUT I REALLY, REALLY HAPPY WHAT IS UP TO NOW AND WHAT GOD IS DOING TO ME RIGHT NOW. I AM VERY, VERY, VERY HAPPY. >> YES. >> PRIYANKA IS NOW WORKING WITH THE IS IS IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION TO HELP FINANCE A HAIR BRAIDING SCHOOL OUT OF HER SHOP. THAT STORY WAS PRODUCED BY REPORTER TARYN MINTO.