International Rescue Committee (IRC)

IRC Entrepreneur of the Month

Fairmount DinerThe International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego recently recognized Wessam Kamel as its inaugural Entrepreneur of the Month.  

In 2008, Wessam Kamel, now age 26, was granted refugee status by the US Department of Homeland Security.  Originally from Iraq, he left everything familiar to rebuild his life in San Diego, CA.  Wessam was assisted by the International Rescue Committee in San Diego (IRC).  The IRC offered Wessam a wide range of resettlement services and resources to help him integrate into his new community.

The IRC Center for Financial Opportunity helped Wessam gain financial stability, develop employment skills, and successfully open and expand his own small business:  Fairmount Diner. 

“The staff is fantastic.  They helped with everything.  They encouraged me.”   

Wessam’s first job in the US was at a convenience store.  Eager to build a strong future, Wessam took advantage of the services offered through  the IRC Financial Education program;  he received two credit-building loans, the first for $100 and the second for $300. As he paid back those interest free loans, the IRC reported his payments to the credit agencies.  As a recently-arrived refugee, credit building loans are  invaluable, allowing critical access to the US banking and credit system.

 After paying his credit-building loans in full, Wessam applied for and obtained a $15,000 loan from the IRC Microenterprise Program to expand the Fairmount Diner, a 1950’s style sandwich shop he purchased with the help of a friend in 2011. He used IRC’s loan to refurbish the space, buy new equipment, and expand marketing and promotion efforts for his business.

Since taking ownership of Fairmount Diner, Wassam has increased sales by 33%. He has transformed the restaurant into a place where his customers can enjoy a great meal and great conversation with other friendly restaurant patrons.   With hard work, dedication, and a little help, Wassam has created a new life. 

“Wessam came to San Diego with determination, knowledge, and entrepreneurial drive to develop a successful business. The support from IRC helped to strengthen his business and overall financial situation. ” says Joel Chrisco, Microenterprise Manager at the IRC in San Diego.

 “Four years ago I came with nothing and now [life is] very good.”  

Fairmount Diner is located at
5981 Fairmount Ave
(between Mission Gorge Rd & San Diego Mission Rd)
San Diego, CA 92120

Click here to learn more about the IRC Microenterprise Program.

Photo: Shaun Boyte

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