In 2005, I enrolled in law school with big dreams about working in international law, changing global policy and making an impact on international immigration and human rights issues. However, I graduated in 2008 — the year of the worst economic recession this country has faced since the Great Depression. To say employment opportunities at that time were few and far between is a complete understatement.
I had a decision to make: give up on my dreams or take another path on my journey. I decided on the latter. I went back to school to get my Masters in Law in Real Estate Development, and I also got my real estate license. “I can do that!”I got my first glimpse into the Investment Immigration industry while attending a real estate seminar in 2011. The guest speaker, also an attorney, pitched the U.S. EB-5 Investment Immigration Program, which allows foreign investors to obtain a green card and a path to U.S. citizenship by investing in U.S. projects.
As a first-generation immigrant and understanding the journey and struggle that my parents went through, I felt drawn to the whole concept. I thought to myself: “I can do that! I am in the wrong business!” I immediately did my research, and being the passionate (and impatient) person that I am, decided that I wanted to get my Investment Immigration business going, and I wanted it done stat! I took advantage of an upcoming trip to India and convinced my family to make a pit stop in Dubai for five days.
The United Arab Emirates, known for its wealth and development, seemed like the perfect place to gain investors, the perfect place to gain clients. I spent the next two months emailing thousands of UAE real estate professionals to let them know I would be in Dubai to meet with those interested in U.S. Investment Immigration. The feedback and interest I received was so positive that I was booked with meetings from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. for five days straight while in Dubai. I didn’t even get to see the outside of my hotel! That trip solidified what I already knew to be true — the Gulf region was an untapped market and I had to be there full time to make my business work. I returned to Miami and convinced my law school friend, Shai Zamanian to come with me on this new adventure.
In February 2014, we packed up our lives, moved to Dubai and never looked back. Our first year of launching Step America was difficult. The Middle East is worlds away from the United States in culture, business and process, so we had to learn as we went along. Being the first company to specialize in the EB-5 market full time in the region was also a double-edged sword. We were introducing an exciting and new opportunity that would benefit investors in the region, but the first year was spent largely on educating the market.
Many people were sceptical and it made it difficult for us to convince them to invest their funds. As we watched our savings deplete, there were several times we considered packing up shop and going back to our comfy corporate jobs.