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This Ethiopian Refugee Owns a Multi-Million Dollar Bus Company After Years of Hard Work

Star Tribune

When Tashitaa Tufaa came to the United States as a political asylee in 1992 from Ethiopia, he worked long hours as a dishwasher and factory workerto support his family, earning small paychecks that sometimes weren't enough.  

Today, he owns a multimillion-dollar transportation company in Minnesota.

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With 300 employees, Metropolitan Transportation Network carries 15,000 children to schools, fieldtrips, and other destinations in Minneapolis and other Minnesota cities, according to VOA News.

“To do a business, you need to face a challenge. You can't start business if there is luxury,” Tufaa told VOA News.

Once a schoolteacher and political activist in the Negele Arsi district in Ethiopia, Tufaa worked three jobs in the US while earning a master’s degree in political science and international relations from the University of Minnesota. He then worked for the Minneapolis Housing Authority.

Over the years, he worked as a dishwasher earning $5.65 an hour at the Hilton Hotel, to a security guard and taxi driver.

“As a result I fell in love with transportation and I call myself an addicted driver,” Tufaa said.

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In 2003 after being laid off from his job, Tufaa worked on a plan to launch a transportation company and started delivering letters to public school districts for contracts. He started with one van transporting homeless children to school.

Eventually, his service was rated excellent by public schools and business grew. He made sure kids arrived to school on time and safely returned home, according to VOA.

“The greatest gift I think you can give people like you is that it can be done and I feel like I've done that,” Tufaa said.

In 2012, Tufaa was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association in Minneapolis.

The Metropolitan Transportation Network plans to spend $1.4 million to upgrade and expand the building, including landscaping and updated security systems, according to the Star Tribune.  

Tufaa is just one of many refugees who have resettled in the United States and are working to achieve the “American Dream.” Although the Trump administration has reduced the number of refugees allowed in the US, they have been a major benefit to the economy for the past 10 years.

According to a study obtained by the New York Times that was never publicly released, refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, local, and state taxes.

Refugees, like immigrants more broadly, often take jobs that others will not. And oftentimes it’s this hard work that leads to the success of people like Tufaa.

“When a person is free, you can do anything,” he said. “So appreciate what you have, work so very hard, and get rid of the wrong pride we have back home that if you have a college degree you have to be in a professional line [of work] and you can't dig the potatoes or do the dishes. Work is work and go out there and do what is available. Be proud of it.”

READ MORE: A refugee who used to sell pens to support his family is now running 4 businesses