By Michael Verchot, Director of the Consulting and Business Development Center, for MBN USA Magazine.
Meet one of America’s catalysts for job creation and economic growth.
Azra Khalfan is the CEO of Plaques by Azra/Signs & Lucite Products, based in Elmhurst, New York. In 2016 she received the Minority Business Enterprise Catalyst Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council. The award recognized her leadership in guiding her company’s success and sharing her knowledge as a mentor to peers.
An Award-winning CEO, business owner, and entrepreneur, Khalfan is also an American Muslim.
Across the United States, American Muslims are playing an increasing part in the nation’s economy. American Muslims now number approximately 3.3 million, per the Pew Research Center and up to 6 million or more from other sources – although estimates are elusive because the U.S. Census Bureau does not track religious preference.
What is clear is that American Muslims fulfill a wide range of roles in America’s economy. Like Khalfan, many are business owners and entrepreneurs. Approximately 50,000 are physicians, comprising five percent of the nation’s total. At a time when fear and extremism seem to dominate the news and conversation, millions of American Muslims are quietly living in the nation’s daily mainstream and contributing to its economic growth and diversity.
Evan as they contribute to America’s diversity, American Muslims are extremely diverse within their own population. They come from 77 different countries. Racially they are white, black, Asian, and Arab in roughly equal proportions. They represent the different sects within Islam – Sunni, Shite, and Sufi.
Yet, their roots and commitments are here in America. More than half were born here. Of those who immigrated, fully 70 percent already have become citizens.
Many of them – 41 percent – support the country’s overall direction compared with other religious groups, per a recent survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. That’s despite the recent election, in which most American Muslims did not support President Trump.
Approximately half have at least some college education and a majority of those who have attended have degrees. Among American Muslims, women have college educations more often than men do.
A higher-than-average share of American Muslims are relatively young, with one-third 30 years old or younger. This is likely one reason why 45 percent report incomes of $30,000 or less, compared with 36 percent of the U.S. as a whole.
While their relative youth offers room for higher income growth, make no mistake – American Muslims’ economic contribution is already significant. Ogilvy Noor, the world’s first specialist Islamic branding consultancy, launched by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Inc. in May 2010, estimated the consumer buying power of American Muslims in 2010 to more than $170 billion.
That ready market of American Muslims provides a foundation for Azra Khalfan, whose business now largely supplies awards and related products to Muslim organizations.
However, she sees far greater growth for her corporate business, which counts Goldman Sachs, American Express, and Macy’s among its clients. She sees other American Muslim-owned businesses with similar opportunities.
“I have a message for other Muslims about starting a business,” she says. “Don’t think twice – go for it.”