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Chaldean Entrepreneur Snacks His Way to Success
By David Najor :: 12982 Views :: Business & Finance

H. Michael Robin arrived in Detroit from his native Baghdad, Iraq, in 1968. The Chaldean immigrant found a job loading potato chips onto delivery trucks.

That modest beginning led to Grandpapa’s, a snack food manufacturer that is part of Robin’s $15-million-a-year snack food business. From a newly renovated 140,000-square-foot factory at 6500 Davison in Detroit, Robin ships pallets stacked with cheese curls, cheese balls, and other snacks around the globe.

Locally, Grandpapa’s may be best known for its line of pork rinds, although that particular snack food is just the tip of a business operation that ships 99% of its production overseas.

From loading trucks to owning a far-flung export business was a journey of hard work and luck and seizing every opportunity.
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Building a Well-Run Chaldean Family Business
By David Najor :: 16295 Views :: Business & Finance

 

The biggest challenge for Chaldean family businesses is being isolated from the outside world says small business consultant Norman Haisha.  Chaldean’s work long hours, weekends, and holidays.   The incredibly long work schedule is a huge sacrifice.  Another is the boundary issue.  Chaldean business leaders are often forced to look at all family and business challenges as being intertwined.  So they’re making business decisions based on family issues and vice versa.Great Chaldean family businesses share certain traits: loyalty among the team, vigilance and competitiveness in their fields.

Those that pass successfully from one generation to the next have a sense of cohesion because, deep down, Chaldean family members really do care about each other and they can get through the hard times. They’ve found ways to manage conflict—not always resolve it, but manage it. They’ve also figured out ways to make decisions when there are differences of opinion. Yet, real pitfalls lurk.

The payoff for family businesses that can make it, though, can be great. “When a family business works well, you can’t beat it,” says Haisha. Family businesses “pull together for the right reasons and it’s not just for profit sake. Profit is not the purpose, but only one of many ways to stay alive and stay fulfilled.  That type of thinking means it’s for the good of the family, good for the employees, it’s good for the community, and it’s long-term. It’s really hard to compete against them. You think about a business that is saying: I’m going to sacrifice so much for my family, my employees, and my community.”

So how can Chaldean family businesses avoid the pitfalls? Here are some keys:
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Chaldean Grocers Troubled by Democrat Pelosi’s Push for Mail Order Shipments of Alcohol
By David Najor :: 28138 Views :: Business & Finance, Government & Society

Washington DC, USA - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is championing her home state’s wine industry in an effort to defeat bill that would give states greater control over how Alcohol is distributed.   The move is causing a battle on Capitol Hill as California winemakers are pitted against beer wholesalers and distributors.   Pelosi and her wine caucus is working to stop the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness and by doing so, open the flood gate of out-of-state alcohol distribution via direct shipment.

Direct shipments of alcohol cut out the distributors and middlemen, allowing wineries to sell straight to customers who may have visited in person or browsed via the Internet.  Wineries, in particular, have considered direct shipping across state lines a retail boon.

Many states enacted laws that either prohibited direct shipping or severely restricted it.  “This legislation is urgently needed to help states defend against lawsuits that are motivated by economic gain … and are not in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Nida Samona, the chairwoman of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, told a House panel recently.  (
To read Nida Samona's Testimony before the House CLICK HERE.)

The fight pits One hundred and seven lawmakers......

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American Iraqi Business Group Reveals Successful Iraqi Oil Bids Awarded
By David Najor :: 22052 Views :: Business & Finance

Baghdad, IRAQ — Efforts by Western and Iraqi business leaders help secure a new chapter in Iraqi’s economic stability and growth.  A major breakthrough for Iraq’s oil industry is made after three international oil consortiums accept Iraq’s terms to develop two oil fields. 

American Iraqi Business Group (AIBG) chairman, Sam Yono shares that recent developments have changed; more companies have agreed to meet Iraq’s price requirements for oil.   

Yono leads the largest consortium of independent Western businesses seeking to conduct business in Iraq.  AIBG offers education and assistance to Iraqi and Western corporations on securing bids from Iraq and better understanding business opportunities.  The business group helps to form collaboration, consortiums, and build synergies to meet the needs of the reemerging Iraqi market. 

After a successful endeavor of a winning bid for BP-China’s CNPC consortium which bid $2 per barrel produced to develop the 17.8 billion barrel Rumaila field with a targeted production of 2.85 million barrels per day, up from its current nearly one million barrels a day, more oil consortium’s sought to bid more competitively. 

AIBG reports that they can now share that, that a total of three other consortiums also were awarded.  One led by Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, another by ConocoPhilips, and a third by Russia’s Lukoil. 

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Largest Ever Federal Tobacco Tax Increase Set For April 1
By David Najor :: 25531 Views :: Business & Finance

Michigan, USA - Federal tobacco taxes are set to go into effect April 1.   The biggest federal tax increase will hit roll-your-own tobacco, rising from $1.10 per pound to $24.78 per pound. Store-bought cigarette taxes will head from 39 cents per pack to $1.01 per pack. The state tax for store-bought cigarettes stands at $2 a pack.

Chaldean retailers that sell tobacco say customers are stocking up and driving demand.  Stores that sell loose tobacco and cigarettes are clamoring to keep their inventory stocked.  Unhappy store owner John Kallabat of Canopy Bottle & Gourmet Shoppe in Brighton wonders how sales will fare starting next month. His store sells cigars and cigarettes, but no roll-your-own tobacco.

"It seems like every time they decide to put a tax increase on something it's always beer, wine or liquor or tobacco, and that's our livelihood," Kallabat said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's budget wouldn't touch Michigan's $2-per-pack cigarette tax, it would slam other tobacco smokers, chewers and puffers who've been a favorite tax target for states to balance budgets and, in the name of good health, discourage tobacco use.

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Depressing Michigan Economy Driving Alcohol Sales
By David Najor :: 21413 Views :: Business & Finance

Michigan, USA – "They were buying a $10 bottle. Now they're buying a $6 bottle," said Mike Acho, owner of the Wine Cellar party store in Waterford. "People don't have the money. They're not working, but they still want the alcohol, so they buy the cheaper stuff."

Chaldean business leaders within the Merchants of Michigan association say the state is heading towards the cliff’s edge.  Michigan remains the worst state in country.  It has the highest unemployment rate in the country, a continually slumping economy and one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation; experts say much of the increased drinking may be related to people trying to drown their sorrows. 

State records agree with the opinion sharing that more customers are choosing to drink at home instead of bars and restaurants.    Alcohol purchases nationwide have risen about 2%, total sales in Michigan have nearly doubled that, 3.5%, with residents of the Great Lakes State spending $895 million in 2007. The increase is in spite of a loss in the state's population of more than 46,000 people last year.

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Where Less Tax Burden Flow - Chaldean Businesses Go
By David Najor :: 32802 Views :: Business & Finance, Government & Society

California, USA – Chaldeans in California grow worrisome as the state’s debt skyrockets.  “They will tax the people to death in this state,” says Abrahim Bajoka, owner of an Arco Gas Station.  “Tax! Tax! Tax!  The more money they take from us the less we can grow, hire new people, or buy new products to sell.  This is basic business.  What is wrong with this state?”

Bajoka’s aggravation is not rare.  Taxpayer groups in the “Fruit & Nut” state are also fuming and vowing to go to court to initiate a referendum to halt nearly $10 billion in recent tax increases Democrats passed in a secret special session last Thursday. 

Lawmakers across the nation are shocked at the extraordinary parliamentary maneuver.   California Democrats circumvented a constitutional provision requiring a two-thirds vote in the state legislature to raise taxes by using their simple majority. “What they are telling small business owners is that we don’t want you in our state,” says Bajoka.  “The hard workers get taxed and the lazy get fed.  This is all wrong.”

So which are the best low-tax states welcoming new business leaders and encouraging economic growth?  Just follow the trail of Chaldeans….

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Gas Station Expands and Offers Customers Much More
By David Najor :: 22210 Views :: Business & Finance

Michigan, USA – While the automotive giants and industry big houses are off begging for bail-out funds, real business leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation are busy finding new ways to better serve customers.  Ask John Abbo, owner of Mobil station at Clyde Road and U.S. 23 in Hartland Township, who has transformed the gas station into a convenient one-stop-shop. 

"The general trend is consumption of petroleum has gone down; it has affected our industry a lot," Abbo said. "We're fortunate that we were able to do the different type of things that we did, like put in a new grill, and we've now converted the store into a market. Gas stations aren't what they used to be."

Abbo has expanded offerings at his 5,000-square-foot station, which he now refers to as the "Hartland General Store," including adding a full liquor collection, expanding Hartland Express Pizza into a grill and selling Michigan Department of Natural Resources hunting and fishing licenses on site. Frozen foods, a deli and other offerings are also included in the renovations, which are expected to wrap up within the next month or so.

In all, Abbo said, he's poured nearly a quarter of a million dollars in improvements.

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Some Chaldean Business Owners Turning Obama Frenzy Into Profit
By David Najor :: 21619 Views :: Business & Finance

Michigan, USA – Obama’s ties to Chaldean business leaders is not limited to Chaldean British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi and Chicago millionaire Antoin “Tony” Rezko.  Auchi’s connection to Saddam Huseein and his loan to Obama of 3.5 million dollars through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA for his home on 5050 South Greenwood Avenue in Chicago, caught little media attention in the political campaign.  

Despite the fact that Obama’s appeal to Chaldean business owners isn’t in the small businesses policies he campaigned about, Chaldean business leaders are going to make the best of popularity. 

Take for example, gas station owner Sam Bazzi in Detroit.  Bazzi is capitalizing on the President Obama frenzy hoping to cover the eventual tax hikes his station and small business like his will face once Obama takes office.  The owners of the independent gas station re-branded a few months ago, including the roof, the sign, the pumps and even the awnings. The new Obama Oil on the corner of Wyoming Street and Plymouth Road in Detroit is a brilliant marketing move that has been “pumping” up customers and ringing in profits.

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Chaldean Controversy Over 'Guaranteed Fresh' Conceived Conspiracy
By David Najor :: 33811 Views :: Business & Finance, Government & Society

Michigan, USA – Chaldean business owners are disappointed over continued efforts to stain independent grocers.  “This is bad.  These people don’t speak for us.  Our produce and foods are fresh.  This is just another way to take money from stores owners and give them nothing in return,” says Kamal Dally, owner of Riverside Liquor in Detroit. 

Dally is upset over an initiative announced at a private business meeting among Chaldeans, under the approving eye of Detroit’s new Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. that Chaldean store owners be asked to join a “Guaranteed Fresh” campaign for their stores.

Dally, and many other business owners feel the business group sold-out the Chaldean business community to gain political points with the new mayor and raise money for their own pet projects.  “They don’t care about Chaldean businesses.  All they care about is using the community name to take money from those who work so they can play golf,” says Dally’s son Thomas.  “Why didn’t they propose the city start a ‘Guarantee Response’ from the police every time a Chaldean store calls for help during an armed robbery or theft? 

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9 Work Secrets to Keep
By David Najor :: 36257 Views :: Career & Education, Business & Finance

Chaldeans are known for their congeniality and good-nature.  What would seem on the surface to be a wonderful trait, can become a huge risk in a corporate setting.  Chaldean professionals making their way through the corporate maze are forewarned that it’s easy to let imprudent information slip out. 

There are at least nine things Chaldeans or any professional minded go-getter should always keep to themselves at work. While some of these points are obvious, anyone who’s spent any time at all in an office can vouch for the fact that this advice bears repeating, and that heeding it could avoid a whole lot of unproductive drama.

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Detroit’s Troublesome Mayor Resigns, Heads to Jail, and Forced to Pay Millions.
By David Najor :: 47111 Views :: Law & Order, Business & Finance, Government & Society

Michigan, USA - Frustrated Detroit Chaldean business owners breathe a sign of relief.  “Finally.  It took this long and cost so much for this city to see what kind of crook we had in office,” says Khalid Nalou, manager of Downtown Corner Market.  “He picked on small business from day one.  This man forced more business to leave a city than Katrina.  I moved my entire family from Detroit and was looking for another place to work.”

The infamous Democratic Mayor was not shy to share his dislike for small businesses in the city.  He often complained and organized attacks against convenient stores, gas stations, hardware stores, salons, and dollar retailers. 

“He upset and offended so many people.  He was arrogant and thought he was a lion.  Now he is a mouse.  When you are sel;fish and not humble, this is what happens,” says Nalou.   Kilpatrick will shamefully resign, serve 120 days in jail, and pay $1M restitution. 

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Is Your Bank Stealing From You?
By David Najor :: 23814 Views :: Business & Finance

California, USA - “Few would argue that the energetic entrepreneurs have transformed small business in metropolitan areas of Michigan, California, Illinois, Arizona, and Nevada,” says Rebecca Cohen of California’s Bank & Trust speaking of Chaldeans.  “They are hard-working, brilliant in business, and have a remarkable talent for negotiations.”

Although the accolades and praise rings true to many, Chaldean business owners still remind budding entrepreneurs to be mindful of banks when doing business. 

“Banks are like any other business.  Their inventory is currency.  They want to buy currency when it is inexpensive and sell or loan to you at a higher rate,” says Masood Bajou.  “Chaldeans in business or not, should always keep a close eye on their banks and the fees they charge.”

Increasingly, banks are finding ways to impose bigger and trickier fees on account holders.  Uncovering the creative ways banks assess fees and other hidden costs to their customers was no easy task.  Nonetheless, Chaldeans should be watchful over some of the sneakiest fees and quickly master ways you can avoid them...

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Chaldean Debbie Kassa Help Uncover Hidden Liabilities
By David Najor :: 30374 Views :: Law & Order, Business & Finance

There are many things involved in establishing a new business. “One of the important steps is to protect yourself from hidden liabilities,” says tax clearance expert Debbie Kassa.   When buying or establishing a new business in Michigan, Taxpayers are required to meet certain obligations under Michigan law, including filing tax returns on time and with the correct payment when required.

Kassa is a decade long veteran of the Michigan Department of Treasury where she was in charge of reviewing Tax Returns from 1040's to the SBT & SUW returns. She also worked 7 years in the Tax Clearance Division reviewing Business accounts for Businesses & Corporations seeking a Tax Clearance.

Kassa advises every business owner on Successor Liability and how to best prepare or avoid such situations.  “When any Chaldean buys a business, even a portion of a business (including stock of goods or even the transfer of a liquor license), they may be held responsible for the previous owner's liabilities, regardless of any contractual language to the contrary.“

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Cell Phone Early Contract Termination Fees Illegal
By David Najor :: 44698 Views :: Law & Order, Business & Finance, Government & Society

California, USA - For many Chaldeans, the cell phone is a life-line to the family.  “Long hours at work, family members pulled in hundreds of different directions, constantly on the run; that’s the life of a Chaldean,” says Joseph Jirjis, store manager of Shop Cellular in El Cajon California.  “We have to stay in touch with one another.  That is how we are able to help one another and make sure everyone is safe.  Even my grandmother has a cell phone.”

Chaldeans often complained about the additional fees cell phone companies would add to a plan.  “They nickel and dime a customer to death,” Jirjis adds.  “Based on the company, we have to follow their plan, and they have all sorts of fees.  Many of our customers get shocked to see all the fees.”

The termination fee in particular upset many customers.  Cellular phone companies would sell contracts to customers and if a customer terminated their contract early an additional fee was added.    However, a Superior Court judge in California has ruled that the practice of charging consumers a fee for ending their cell phone contract early is illegal and violates state law.

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