The people in the U.S. are incredible people who are united by basic beliefs. The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” No matter what the politics are, Americans will always be bound by these truths.
I had the pleasure to Interview Shahd Alasaly, the Founder of Blue Meets Blue
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in an affluent family in Syria. My father was a doctor. He and my mother raised me there. When I was two-years-old we moved to Phoenix, AZ, so my dad could complete his residency in pediatrics. My father came to the US because he believed in working hard to achieve the American Dream. He raised us to value the same principles and values that drove him to move to the United States.
Today, as I’ve always traveled back and forth, Syria is unrecognizable to me. It’s endured a lot of pain and is wartorn. But the country I remember was a country of peace, family gatherings, and great hospitality. It used to be filled with the scent of jasmine flowers, and early dinners were followed by afternoon naps. As a girl, I’d visit Damascus in the summertime where my grandmother lived. It was just incredible. She would wake me up with mint green tea, cook for the entire family, and teach me how to make clothes. She’s the one who taught me the quality of fine fabric, how to sew buttons, and ultimately fostered a great love for design.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
My experience getting here and becoming a citizen was not difficult. My father was a great doctor and he was welcomed to America by the pediatric community. We settled nicely into Phoenix. I had a good childhood, and I loved that we stayed in the desert.
I eventually left to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I earned my Bachelor’s in Arts & Science, and English Literature, with a focus on Philosophy and Psychology. Afterward, I pursued a Master’s Degree in International Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where I studied refugee resettlement and art therapy.
I found a way to take my background and combine it with a personal commitment to help others. I spent several years living in Syria, where I taught english and psychology to local groups. I saw firsthand what the common man, woman, and family were experiencing.
So how are things going today?
Things are going well! I used my upbringing, background and education, to launch a humanitarian luxury clothing company three years ago. It was in response to the refugee crisis. I couldn’t bare to do nothing while 65 million refugees were being displaced, the majority of which were from Syria.
The label is Blue Meets Blue, and our business and employment model is totally different from anything else out there. We are humanitarian first, fashion second. We partner with government relocation agencies to identify and employ skilled refugee workers (our mantra: “work is dignity”), to design and sew garments with us. We are a small, growing team in Chicago, a diverse group, although mostly women. Everyone has their own unique story, but share “refugee” and “war” in common, as they’ve fled wars in Syria, Jordan, Israel and Mexico in order to survive.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Definitely. Through starting Blue Meets Blue.
I knew I needed to find a way to help during the refugee crisis, and realized I could by combining my background in fashion with psychology
Refugee women coming to America face so many challenges, and while grasping the language is difficult enough, most are unable to find work in their previous fields, a factor that compounds the stress of their transition. The list of challenges is long, but these women are inherently resilient and strong. They have no other choice.
The hope with Blue Meets Blue was to create a unique form of art therapy for refugee women by producing an ethical high-end fashion line that utilized their talents, provided financial support, and created communities. Our designers only want what’s best for their families, and for their newfound country.
However, there is much to do in the field of assistance for helping them transition. Blue Meets Blue at least helps provide another option for support. We provide work that emotionally and financially empowers them.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you?
- Work. And work hard. Success is a result of hard work, A misconception people have by coming to the United States, is that they can easily achieve the American Dream. But the truth is anything is possible only if one works hard to achieve it.
- Believe in yourself and in your dreams. Walt Disney said: “If you dream it you can do it.” The amount of startups and businesses that have resulted in people believing in themselves by having a dream and pursuing it is endless. The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and strong and one that we value as a society.
- Get an education, not necessarily a college degree but educate yourself.
- Learn how to budget. We live in a country of abundance. Learning how to be content with what one has, and only buying what one needs, helps people save money for their future and continue to pursue their American Dream.
- Focus on a healthy mindset. Be happy with what you have!
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- The people in the U.S. are incredible people who are united by basic beliefs. The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” No matter what the politics are, Americans will always be bound by these truths.
- Our country is a melting pot of diverse individuals who are distinct in their beliefs and traditions. All of our different parts make us whole.
- Millennials. Today Millennials are the face of a wide range of humanitarian issues and impactful causes. They are at the forefront of change, and want to make the world and more specifically the country a better place. There is a quote that says, “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people.” Millennials are using their voice, and their consumer habits, to make a positive change, one that will result in a positive future in our country.
- In America, destiny is chosen by millenials, not given to them by older generations.
- America offers opportunity to everyone. If you are willing to work hard you can achieve just about anything. Entrepreneurship and innovation will continue to drive America forward.
Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
Oprah! I love her life story, how she started out and the way she built her empire. She is a true inspiration and someone who I have always looked up to. I would love to sit down with her and receive pearls of wisdom from someone who knows it all!
Originally published at medium.com