Country of origin: India
Occupation: Founder and CEO, the Marketing Zen Group
Her advice to immigrant entrepreneurs: "If you have an idea, put it out there and then figure out how to improve it. Look beyond the bottom line and toward the bigger impact."
Kabani came with her family to the United States from India in 1994 at age 9. Kabani's father drove a taxi, and her mother ran a café, which she later turned into a Subway franchise. "I saw them work hard and doubly so because they were in a new country trying to adjust. They worked very long hours, and I was a latchkey kid well into high school," she told Kiplinger. By age 10, Kabani had started her first business selling gift wrapping paper, with her younger sister working as her assistant.
In 2008, she earned a master's in organizational communications from the University of Texas at Austin, where she wrote her thesis on the impact of Twitter and social media. "When I finished grad school, I knew I wanted a job in social media. I applied to several companies, but no one would hire me." The demand for social media professionals simply there yet. Instead of letting rejection discourage her, Kabani founded the Marketing Zen Group, a full-service online marketing and digital PR firm.
Today, Kabani's company has gone from being a one-woman show to employing 30, including her husband Arshil, who serves as vice president and legal counsel. In 2011, annual sales reached around $1 million, a figure that is expected to double in 2012. Kabani has been featured in national publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek and Entrepreneur.
Kabani took her oath to become a naturalized citizen on October 29. "It's been a long process that took three years,” she says. Her husband is a natural-born citizen, so she was able to apply through him. For other aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs, Kabani advises: "Pursue entrepreneurship if you have a passion for something. A lot of people see it as a way to make money -- and it shouldn't always be about that."