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Veronika and Krasi Lukanov: Immigrant Business Owners, Part 2

This is the KSMU Sense of Community feature broadcast Wednesday, December 17, 4:30PM, produced by Mike Smith.

As Veronika Lukanov lists items from the shelves of the Fine European Market, which she and her husband Krasi Lukanov own and operate on south Campbell in Springfield Missouri, we learn the Lukanov’s are among 1.5 million immigrant business owners in the U.S. (7,200 in Missouri) who’s contribution to the national economy totals 67 billion dollars in generated income. That’s 11.6% of all business generated income in the U.S. according to University of California-Santa Cruz economics professor Robert Fairlie. Fairlie, author of the November 2008 Small Business Administration report titled “Estimating the Contribution of Immigrant Business Owners to the U.S. Economy”,says “I guess when you hear those numbers, 1.5 million immigrant business owners in the U.S., and 67 billion dollars, that’s pretty striking. You can see that kind of anecdotally as you travel around the U.S. You can see a lot of businesses are owned by immigrants”. Including the 2 businesses in Springfield owned by Krasi and Veronika Lukanov, who came to the United States in 2002 after Veronika was one of some 2000 Bulgarians who won a “Green Card Lottery” allowing the winner and spouse or family to leave the country.

Theirs is a classic “hard work brings rewards” story of how Krasi and Veronika Lukanov went from being immigrant employees to U.S. citizen employers in a few years time. Veronika tells KSMU the story of how they were first able to save enough money to start their businesses by working for others. Upon arrival in the Ozarks in 2002, Veronika worked for what was then Famous Barr in the Battlefield Mall. Krasi worked in the food service industry. The couple then went to truck driving school and found work driving coast to coast as team drivers for CTI and then IWX. When they saved enough to purchase their own truck, they became owner-operators with IWX. Climbing the ladder even further, Krasi and Veronika were able to save enough to purchase their own trailer and established K&V Trucking Company and then start the Fine European Market. Krasi and Veronika Lukanov now employ 1 driver with K&V, and 4 workers in the Fine European Market.

When asked how the idea of opening the Fine European Market came about, Krasi Lukanov says “In the beginning we thought of starting in the restaurant business but it takes a lot of investment and is more difficult in these times. We notices there is no (European) foods to buy here and every time we wanted to buy, we had to go to St. Louis or Chicago just to buy food. We thought it would be good to bring in (in part with K&V Trucking) the food we like, and with the increased population of east Europeans in the area, it would be a good business to start”.

When asked what advice they would give to those wishing to emigrate to the United States to start a business, Veronika says “Work hard, be honest, and treat people like you wish to be treated. Be kind, always try to help, and again work very, very hard. And most important, always try to make a business plan and follow it step by step. This will probably bring you to success”. Krasi added to that by saying, “Have a back up plan to fall back on immediately if something goes wrong. Everything’s possible. You just have to find the right business in the right location”.

For KSMU’s Sense of Community Series, I’m Mike Smith.