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First Person: From Refugee To Proprietor

Queentabel Banka sits in her hair braiding salon in San Diego's City Heights ...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: Queentabel Banka sits in her hair braiding salon in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood, Feb. 15, 2018.

Special Feature First Person

KPBS Midday Edition's First Person series tells the stories of average and not-so-average San Diegans in their own words. Their experiences, both universal and deeply personal, offer a unique lens into the news of the day.

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.


New Americans in San Diego

New Americans in San Diego

A report on the role foreign-born San Diegans play in the regional economy.

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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.

Nicholas Mcvicker,

First Person: From Refugee To Proprietor


Queentabel Banka, owner, Banka Hair Braiding


Radio version includes music from "A Day To Remember" by

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