Country of origin: Jamaica
Occupation: Founder and CEO, Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill
His advice to immigrant entrepreneurs: "Anybody can achieve the American dream. You've got to be focused, educated, have discipline, and just go for it."
Shortly after moving to the Bronx from Jamaica in 1981, Hawthorne, 21, green card in hand, landed a job as an assistant stock handler with the New York Police Department. He earned an associate's degree in accounting from Bronx Community College and was eventually promoted to accountant. But entrepreneurship beckoned.
Hawthorne had watched his father operate a bakery in his native Jamaica and knew he wanted to work alongside family. So he pitched the idea for Golden Krust, a Caribbean-themed, family-style eatery, to his seven brothers and sisters who had also come to the U.S. At first, they couldn't get a small business loan. "The banks were hesitant to grant loans to new restaurants because of the failure rate -- especially niche restaurants such as ours," Hawthorne recalls. "We also didn't have a lot of personal assets to guarantee the loan." So the siblings took out second mortgages on their homes and borrowed money from family and friends, raising $107,000. In 1989, the first Golden Krust restaurant opened in the Bronx. In 1991, Hawthorne left his job with the NYPD for good. The next year, he became a U.S. citizen.
There are now more than 100 Golden Krust locations in nine states along the Eastern seaboard. Hawthorne and Golden Krust have been profiled in major publications such as The New York Times, the Washington Post and Black Enterprise magazine. In 2011, the company generated $100 million in revenue. Hawthorne says in addition to opening more franchises, there are plans to expand the company with a line of cooking sauces.
"Risks not taken are opportunities missed," he says. "You've always got to take calculated risks in entrepreneurship.”