Author Archives: Jonathan Apikian

Michael Vick and entrepreneurship

Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick (#7) running the ball in a victory against the Washington Redskins earlier this NFL season. (Photo: Nick Wass/AP via

The Michael Vick story is not just about football. From sporting a jumpsuit as inmate number 33765-183 in Leavenworth Penitentiary, to being hailed as a contender for Most Valuable Player (MVP) in his first season back as an NFL starting quarterback, the rebirth of Michael Vick in 2010 is one of the most compelling stories that has captured the attention of fans and detractors alike.

But what makes the Michael Vick story so fascinating is not a triumph of greed over principle, or mercy over horror; it’s embodied in President Obama’s call to the Philadelphia Eagles praising owner Jeffrey Lurie for hiring Vick and giving him a second chance.  Obama’s message to Lurie didn’t just remind us that those who have made mistakes can rehabilitate themselves through hard work, discipline and other virtues—it had greater global implications for what a market economy stands for: second chances.

Read More…

Chasing the Ethiopian-American Dream

Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.

For centuries, this Ethiopian proverb has helped a generation of ambitious youth realize that entrepreneurship starts with an idea and ends with a destiny. No one knows this better than Henok Tesfaye, a young Ethiopian entrepreneur who immigrated to Los Angeles almost two decades ago. Saving a couple hundred dollars a month to pay for business classes, Tesfaye worked as a valet attendant with the hopes of one day owning his own company. Twelve years later, his U Street Parking, named after his first parking lot located in the lively U Street Corridor district of Washington, DC at 12th street NW, informally known as “Little Ethiopia,” is now considered among the biggest and most successful parking lot companies in the DC metropolitan region.

Read More…

From Sweden with Love

IKEA store in Moscow (Photo:

When Oleg Deripaska, a prominent Russian business tycoon, complained to President Medvedev of the endemic corruption plaguing Russia’s judicial system in which “one cannot receive a fair ruling,” Medvedev responded by faulting the businesses for paying the bribes in the first place. Can a business thrive in a corrupt system if it doesn’t “play by the rules?”

IKEA knows firsthand. It’s unlike any other furniture store in the world, and yet, IKEA is no different than any business trying to penetrate a new market.

Read More…

Effective Reconstruction is Building Markets and Cultivating Entrepreneurship

$9 billion in Haiti. $10.4 billion in Afghanistan. $16.3 billion in Iraq.

The need for effective reconstruction efforts around the world continues to grow and financial support for it has never been greater. So why is reform languishing? An insightful report from NPR’s This American Life on Haiti’s road to recovery tries to make sense of this quandary as national elections in the country approach this year. With “unprecedented amounts” of money pledged to Haitian relief since March alone, in addition to the active work of some 10,000 aid groups and NGOs, the country’s development has stalled, if not regressed. Haiti’s case is all too common. The challenge is getting past simply the best of intentions and actually embarking on a policy that helps Haitians help themselves.

Read More…

“Inviting a Mosquito to Cure Malaria”

Those were the words of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai referring to a recent visit to Harare by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leader came to Zimbabwe last week to discuss trade and cooperation agreements with President Robert Mugabe, who himself has been a target of international sanctions.

Despite being thousands of miles from each other, the two countries share similar political and economic challenges that can be addressed through similar approaches. In the wake of the unrest following presidential elections in each country, civil society has operated under tighter control with limited political space to promote constitutional reform and hold government accountable for achieving economic and social priorities.

Read More…

The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East: Soap Opera Diplomacy?

Given the Ottoman Empire’s history in the Middle East, Turkey’s secularism upon the founding of the republic has left many with a less than favorable perception of the country among Arab states. However, the tide seems to be changing. Anyone who has lived in the Middle East or at least visited an Arab household has witnessed the predominance of a soap opera culture that engrosses men, women, and children alike. One of the most popular soap operas in the Middle East currently is in fact a Turkish series entitled Gumus (or Noor in Arabic), and it’s safe to say that it has helped “conquer hearts and minds in the Arab world.”

Read More…

Wal-Mart in Iraq?

Carrefour opens at Dalma Mall, Abu Dhabi. The french retail market chain will expand to Arbil, Iraq, this fall. (Photo:

The French market chain Carrefour, the second largest retail group in the world, recently announced its plans to construct a store that will include “an ice rink, cinema complex, and a bowling alley” in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish province in the north of Iraq. With the opening this September, Carrefour would be the “first multinational retailer to enter the Iraqi market since the war.”

Read More…