Imad Agh Morad
The Long Journey to Entrepreneurship
In a busy strip mall in Detroit’s Warrendale neighborhood, Imad Agh Morad runs My Computers and Phones, LLC, a shop specializing in the sale and repair of computers and providing phone services to locals. Morad stands in front of a bright pink hookah behind the counter, welcoming customers with an easy manner that doesn’t reveal the struggles he faced on his path to entrepreneurship in Detroit.
His long journey began in his native country Iraq.
As American occupation came to a close, Morad was working as an electrical engineer for an American firm. He was happy to be a part of the effort, but not everyone felt the same way. He was not safe. Al Qaeda, thinking he was a spy for the Americans, kidnapped him. He was blindfolded, thrown into a dark cell, beaten, and tortured for months. He was convinced that he would never again see his family.
Then came a lucky break. Fearing the discovery of its secret prison, Al Qaeda decided to move Morad and his fellow captives to a new location. When a suspicious Iraqi checkpoint guard demanded to examine the contents of the truck in which they were hidden, the sound of a kicking foot gave them away. Morad and his fellow prisoners were discovered under a pile of vile waste and garbage.
The nightmare was over. After seven long months, Morad and his fellow prisoners were free. But Morad knew he would not be safe unless he could get out of the country. At the risk of being caught again before obtaining new papers, he hid in his brother’s home for three months. Finally he joined a friend in Sweden who found him work as an electrical engineer for two years. He continued to hope that one day he would be reunited with his family who, convinced that Morad was dead and fearing for their own lives, fled to the UN in Iraq for help shortly after his capture. They were relocated to the U.S. where two years after his release, with his heart pounding from excitement, Imad Agh Morad touched down in Fort Collins, Colorado and was finally reunited with his wife and three children. “That was the most wonderful day of my life,” said his son Ahmed.
Longing to find a way to support his family and to be with people from his own culture, Morad searched the internet where he learned of the large Arabic population residing on the west side of Detroit and in Dearborn. Traveling from Colorado to Detroit, not knowing anyone, he made his way from the airport to a coffee shop frequented by many Middle Easterners. Learning of a gentleman who wanted to sell his computer store, he walked five miles to meet with him. He convinced him to let him work for free for four months to learn every aspect of the business first.
In the meantime, on a visit to ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) to register for Medicaid, he noticed a sign promoting ACCESS Growth, an entrepreneurship training and technical assistance program. He enrolled and took the training where he was encouraged to reach out to ProsperUS Detroit for a micro loan. ProsperUS works with entrepreneurs by concentrating micro-enterprise development in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods. Working with them, he was able obtain a startup loan to purchase the business. “Thanks to ACCESS Growth and ProsperUS, I am able to take care of my family. I am making money, so I can pay the loan back on time,” said Morad. His long journey has ended in Detroit. Today, he, his wife and three children reside on the northwest side, not far from his store. He has been able to keep the previous owner’s customers and to grow the business. Recently he added a new item to his inventory. He now sells prepaid phones which specialize in reaching the Middle East and Central America.
“This is my home now. This is where I feel comfortable. America is my home.”