Step out of your bubble and comfort zone. Before I came to America, I had not seen a black, white, or hispanic person. My worldview was quite limited. Since coming to America, I have enjoyed meeting people from all backgrounds and expanding my friend circle to include people of all races and beliefs. This has enriched my life and expanded my heart.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Priya Narula.
Priya was born and raised in northern India. She moved to Minneapolis at the age of 21.
Priya majored in biology and chemistry back in India and shortly after arriving Minneapolis, she developed a passion for web design.
She co-founded Keyhubs — a software and services firm specializing in the power and wisdom of human networks, heightening awareness of self and others, and fostering connection.
She is also the co-founder of Neighborhood Forest — a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to school children every Earth Day. Since 2010, Neighborhood Forest has given away over 30,000 trees to school children in 15 states across America and Canada.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Bareilly, India. I had a very loving family, even though we didn’t always have a lot of money, my parents took good care of me and my brother, and sister. I grew up speaking a few different languages at home. We valued education, hard work, and helping others.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
In India, it is not uncommon for parents to “arrange” their kids marriage. My father was looking for a suitable match for me. One of his good friends from Canada, sent his nephew to meet me — he was from America. We met, got engaged, got married, and I emigrated to America shortly thereafter.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I had never been out of India before marriage. I came to USA via Amsterdam. I had immigration in Chicago. Coming to America was an eye-opening experience — everything is so different from where I grew up. I had to learn everything from scratch — the language, the culture, the norms, and so on. The first couple of years were hard; however, now I love America and consider it my home.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Obviously, my husband was a key part of my smooth transition. He introduced me to new people and helped me make new friends and this made all the difference. Shortly after my arrival, my husband put an add on an Indian bulletin board to help me find friends from my culture. The subject of the posting was “female seeking female”. Many people responded and found it very sweet and endearing. One of the women I met through this “ad”, is my best friend 20+ years later! I am glad my husband posted that ad!
So how are things going today?
Amazing. We have been married over 23 years. We have two bright, teenage boys and my husband and I started two entrepreneurial ventures — Keyhubs and Neighborhood Forest. I am really living the American Dream. One thing I feel America offers is life long learning. There is no age limit to anything. I learned swimming, ice skating, rollerblading and recently I joined a coed soccer league. I love it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We love to give back. We support various charities in our community (and beyond), our social venture, Neighborhood Forest is our way of giving back — we have given away over 30,000 trees to families all across America. That continues to grow and blossom and we continue to look for ways to give back.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
It took me over 6 months to get immigration after marrying my husband. He had to get helped from the local congressman to help expedite our process. I wish we didn’t have to wait so long to be reunited.
Since I did not know English at the time, it would have been helpful to have some translators to help through the process. Overall I would say it was good!
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Life long learning. Never stop learning and growing. Even as I have entered my 40s, I continue to follow my passions and learn things that are of interest to me. This is the key. For example, I had a desire to learn and play soccer. Now I do. I love it.
- Perseverance. Failure happens. It is important not to give up or lose hope. We have had many failures, but we have kept going and learned from them. It has made us stronger and more resilient.
- Step out of your bubble and comfort zone. Before I came to America, I had not seen a black, white, or hispanic person. My worldview was quite limited. Since coming to America, I have enjoyed meeting people from all backgrounds and expanding my friend circle to include people of all races and beliefs. This has enriched my life and expanded my heart.
- Have fun. Enjoy whatever path you take. Life is short.
- Creativity — America is one of the most creative countries in the world. Let your creativity run wild and express yourself — no one here is going to tell you its “wrong”. Allow your creative spirit to blossom.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- My experience is that the American people are friendly and good at heart — they are generous and helpful. This gives me a lot of optimism for the future
- In this country, we have freedom of voice and expression. This gives us the ability to speak up and make change. This is so critical to our future.
- America always lead the way with new ideas and innovation — this is not likely to change any time soon. It is our competitive advantage.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I really love and admire Daniel Lubetzky — the founder of Kind Bar. I find his entrepreneurial journey very inspiring. His wisdom and advice for other entrepreneurs is something I have learned a great deal from.
I really love Guy Raz and How I Built This. His interviews with other legendary entrepreneurs (like Daniel) have been a huge inspiration for us and have helped us persevere through tough times.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, is also a great inspiration to me as a woman entrepreneur.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for this opportunity!!