Arriving in New York from Tunisia in 1993 as a beneficiary of the Green Card lottery program, Kais Abid wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He was just another fresh faced immigrant lucky enough to have papers. Knowing that he loved food, he enrolled in culinary courses. To make ends meet, he worked at a branch of the sandwich chain Subway as a dishwasher.
Abid, 31, worked diligently and, after a few years was managing several of the Manhattan stores. When he realized that the American dream of owning a business could be his, he figured, why not a Subway franchise? As Abid noted, it has an excellent reputation and has eclipsed MacDonald's as America's largest fast food chain.
"Four years ago, I took out a loan of $35,000 to open the first store downtown." Within eight months, Abid opened a second one. "I've worked in the system from dishwashing to managing so I have a clear idea of how to take care of customers," Abid said recently.
Today, he has four Subway outlets - three in downtown Manhattan and one in Midtown. It would have been five but one underperforming store was closed. Even as an owner, he still dons an apron to prepare meals behind the counter.
Born in France, he tried to make it in Europe but the obstacles facing North Africans made it too difficult. As an immigrant in America, his years of hard work have paid off.
Abid returns to Africa twice a year, but noted, "The only thing I hate is not having my family around me, but this is the country of opportunity," One brother, a rocket scientist, is in the U.S. but the rest of his family still resides outside Tunis.