Immigrants Built America – Entrepreneurship Provided Them with a Pathway to Financial Prosperity

Jul 2, 2024

This Thursday from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico American citizens will be celebrating the 4th of July with flags proudly displayed in front of their homes, dressed in red, white, & blue, and gathering as communities to watch fireworks light up the sky to a soundtrack of patriotic music.  July 4, 2024 celebrates the 248th birthday for the United States, a nation largely built through the hard work, innovation, and investment of people whose family trees had roots in other nations around the world.

My family immigrated to America from the European countries of Germany, Russia, Poland, Czechia, and Hungry over the last four generations, with my wife, born in Germany, being the most recent individual in the group to become American by choice.  Each member of my family shared an attitude famously expressed by John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (  Not one member of my family sought government assistance, as a group they went to work embracing the limitless opportunity equally offered to all in this nation willing to make the effort.   The reality of the American economy is that in most cases Fortune 500 companies do not embrace first generation immigrants as employees.  Instead, these individuals often are forced to come up with an idea and execute on it with limited resources as entrepreneurs to support themselves and their families.  In my family, small businesses started ranged from fruit carts to selling glasses on train station platforms to furniture stores to furriers.  As a business broker over the last thirty years, I have had the honor of hearing the stories and selling businesses for immigrants from around the world.  IBA as a business brokerage firm has professionally served first generation immigrants interested in selling and buying privately held companies and family businesses in Washington and Oregon since 1975.

In recognition of the contribution first generation immigrants have made to the fabric of America through entrepreneurship immediately prior to our nation’s birthday, I am a going to share a few of those inspirational stories:

In the shipyards of Gdansk, Poland in 1980 Lech Walesa, an electrician, started a movement that led to that nation abandoning the dark shadow of communism for the bright light democracy in 1989 (  In the Gdansk shipyards working as electricians, Josef Plichta and Waldemar Szreder, experienced the birth of freedom firsthand.  Following that experience, each immigrated to America finding jobs working as skilled electricians in the shipyards in Seattle.  When Todd Shipyards went into bankruptcy, the two individuals elected to take their knowledge, experience, & skill and create a marine electrical contracting company, ElTech.  IBA sold that business for them to another first generation immigrant, George Hancock,, who wanted to try another entrepreneurial field relevant to his youth in England after success in the software and beer industries .  A company he ran successfully until his unfortunate, premature death.  Once entrepreneurs always entrepreneurs, Josef & Waldemar started a second company along with several Eastern European origin electricians which grew quickly to scale serving the Alaskan fishing and cargo shipping industries. That company, Elmore Electric ( which I also sold, continues to operate successfully under the leadership of Joe Williams.

IBA is unique in the business brokerage industry in the breadth of entrepreneurs we serve as a firm out of seven offices in Washington & Oregon staffed by eighteen business sale intermediaries.  It is not uncommon for our firm to sell privately held companies for eight figures.  However, I can tell you it is our six figure sales where we often feel the most appreciated.  Sales in this space worthy of mention include the transactions involving Flowerland of Renton, which was owned by one of the most skilled and hard working florists I have ever known, Song Baesler, an immigrant from Vietnam; the acquisition of Redmond Pet Stop by Wan & Heui Kim, some of the most genuine, hardworking people I have ever met who through their effort & skill as first generation immigrants from Korea built a life in America and helped their daughters become doctors after graduating from the University of Washington;  and the sale of Taso’s Euro Deli at Northgate Mall by the Christophilis family, a Greek immigrant family, to a family of Coptic Christians from Egypt fleeing persecution to make a better life in America.

IBA’s professional mantra is that we represent our clients like family members providing the same guidance we would provide a favorite aunt or uncle as intermediaries. Our approach focused on serving with heart rather than financial focus has resulted in numerous IBA business brokers developing close relationships with their clients that endure many years after transactions are completed.   In my case, I was blessed to add a second “father figure” in my life based on being tasked with facilitating a retirement sale for Graham Hollingsworth, the founder of Lancs Industries (  Graham & Barb Hollingsworth were a classic Seattle story. Graham, an aerospace engineer by education, was recruited by Boeing to come to Seattle to build airplanes.  His luck, he came shortly before the period when the famous, will the last person leaving Seattle turn off the lights sign ( was featured near SeaTac Airport and was soon laid off.  Loving the Emerald City at first sight, he decided to become an entrepreneur and take his destiny into his own hands.  50 years later, he was about as American and Seattle, as one could be from being a lifelong Sounders fan to being a Captain’s Club member on Argosy Cruises greeting strangers and delighting them with stories.  Frequently, Graham would join our family on the 4th of July often at Bellevue Park for fireworks (  I fondly recall prior to watching fireworks with him at Bellevue Park coming out of the pandemic jointly surveying the crowd and marveling at the diversity of people coming together for America and their resiliency post hardship filling the air with laughter.  Sadly, Graham passed recently, but his legacy and spirit remain.  The following is a profile of his life: in IBA’s American Dream Achieved series.

It is natural to criticize.  As a nation, we can always do better.  However, on Thursday I encourage you to join me in recognizing all that is good in America including the fact that all demographic groups regardless of how long they have been in the nation, are given an equal opportunity to soar to limitless heights of financial prosperity and personal fulfillment as entrepreneurs based on their vision, execution, and ability.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, legal, accounting, banking, and wealth management communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.