Editor’s note: Steve S. Rao is a Council Member At Large and Former Mayor Pro Tem for the Town of Morrisville and an Opinion Writer for WRAL Tech Wire. He served on the Board of the New American Economy, now the American Immigration Council, and on the NC League of Municipalities Race and Equity Task Force. He is a regular contributing writer to WRAL TechWire.
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MORRISVILLE – My favorite line in the Alexander Hamilton the Musical: “Immigrants Get the Job Done.”
The remarkable story of Nepali immigrant Raj Bhandari once again affirms the words of this famous line from my favorite Broadway musical. This Nepali American left the shores of his home country to achieve true business success, receiving the SBA Exporter of the Year Award this year.
On Friday, Southeast Regional Administrator Allen Thomas for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Sciencix President Bhandari will host a roundtable discussion with Nepali small business owners, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. The roundtable discussion will include accessing capital, free counseling resources, federal contracting, and exporting. This event will continue the conversation of uplifting Nepali-owned businesses, who are often an overlooked but integral part of the AAPI National Exporter of the Year. business community in the United States.
Earlier this month, Sciencix – a supplier of high quality HPLC [High Performance Liquid Chromatography] and Mass Spectrometry repair parts – was recognized by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as SBA’s National Exporter of the Year in the White House during National Small Business Week. This award sparked international attention and prompted a business visit by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman and an invitation to meet with Nepal Ambassador Sridhar Khatri. As the first Nepali to receive this award, news of this historic accomplishment went viral in Bhandari’s home country, and it ignited hope for other current and future business owners in the Nepali diaspora community.
I met Raj at the US-India Connection event which I hosted a few weeks ago in Morrisville, as he served on a panel highlighting successful immigrant entrepreneurs. I also and had the honor of visiting him at his facility, along with interviewing him for a radio show I host on Radio Nyra, an Triangle based Indian American Radio station.
His story was awe inspiring to say the least.
Into the unknown … from Nepal to the U.S.
At the age of 19 in 2004, Raj embarked on an incredible personal journey from Nepal to the United States. It was a decision that filled me with both excitement and apprehension. Leaving behind his family, friends, and everything familiar, he stepped into the unknown, driven by a strong desire to pursue my dreams and explore new opportunities.
The journey began with a mixture of emotions as he bid farewell to his loved ones at the airport in Nepal. Although he was excited about what lay ahead, there was a hint of sadness in my heart, knowing that he would be far away from the place I had called home for so long. However, he was determined to make the most of this new chapter in my life.
This was his first time getting inside a plane. As the plane soared through the skies, he couldn’t help but marvel at the breathtaking views below. The world appeared so vast and full of possibilities. Little did he know that the journey ahead would be filled with unexpected challenges.
Upon reaching his destination in the US, he eagerly awaited the arrival of his luggage, which contained all if his belongings and cherished memories from Nepal. However, to his dismay, he discovered that both of my suitcases were missing. It was a disheartening moment, as those suitcases held not just clothes and personal items but also sentimental objects that held great value to him
Feeling a sense of loss and disappointment, he immediately reported the missing luggage to the airline. They assured him at they would do their best to locate and return my belongings. Though anxious, Raj tried to remain positive and hopeful.
In the days that followed, he settled into my new surroundings, trying to adapt to a different culture and way of life. It was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences, with each day presenting unique challenges and opportunities for growth. Despite the setbacks of losing my luggage, he refused to let it dampen his spirit.
As time passed, Raj received updates from the airline regarding the search for my suitcases. Weeks turned into months, and while the airline made every effort to locate them, his belongings remained elusive. It was a tough lesson in letting go and appreciating the intangible things in life.
A transformative experience
Although he mourned the loss of his possessions, the journey itself became a transformative experience. It taught him resilience, adaptability, and the power of embracing the unknown. he discovered a strength within me that he never knew existed, and forged new friendships that would become pillars of support in my new home.
Slowly, Raj started to rebuild his life, acquiring the essentials he needed and getting immersed in the opportunities that America had to offer. With each passing day, I grew more independent and self-reliant. The setbacks I faced along the way only fueled my determination to succeed.
After overcoming the initial challenges of adjusting to life in the United States, he pursued his undergraduate studies at St. Cloud State University. It was a transformative period of my life, where he had the opportunity to delve into my chosen field of study and expand my knowledge. He worked hard to excel academically while also immersing myself in various extracurricular activities and engaging with the vibrant campus community.
Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, Raj worked at Harvard University, School of Public Health as a Research Associate. After one year at Harvard, he decided to further his education and pursue a Ph.D. He enrolled at South Dakota State University, driven by a deep passion for research and a desire to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in his field. The doctoral journey was rigorous and demanding, but it provided him with invaluable experiences and shaped me into a more independent and critical thinker.
Now a business owner
Upon completing his Ph.D., Raj was eager to apply his skills and knowledge in a practical setting. In 2015, he joined Sciencix, a reputable company in the scientific industry. Working at Sciencix allowed him to utilize expertise and collaborate with a diverse team of professionals. He gained valuable industry experience, honed my problem-solving abilities, and contributed to cutting-edge research and development projects.
However, his ambitions didn’t stop there. In January 2021, with the support and encouragement from his wife, Raj took a bold step and became a business owner. She played a crucial role in encouraging him to buy Sciencix, a pivotal step . For both of them it was a decision driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to create something meaningful. This allowed him to combine his passion for science with his acumen for entrepreneurship. It was an exciting and challenging endeavor that demanded dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks.
As a business owner, Raj embraced the responsibilities and opportunities that came with managing a company. He focused on building a strong team, fostering innovation, and delivering high-quality products and services to our customers. He shared with me that the journey of entrepreneurship has been filled with both triumphs and obstacles, but each experience has contributed to his personal and professional growth.
One extraordinary highlight of his remarkable journey after becoming a business owner was when Sciencix won a 2023 U.S. SBA National Exporter of the Year award. His company was recognized and invited to the White House. It was an incredible honor and a testament to the hard work and dedication he had put into his endeavors.
Raj shared with me that being invited to the White House and being honored and celebrated by both the President Biden and VP Harris was an exhilarating experience that surpassed all expectations. It was a surreal feeling to step foot into such an iconic and historically significant place. The grandeur of the building, the rich history it held within its walls, and the sense of importance that filled the air were awe-inspiring.
In the spotlight
The White House visit provided a platform to showcase the innovative work taking place at Sciencix. It was a moment of pride and validation for his team, as their contributions to the scientific industry were recognized and celebrated on a national level.
Beyond the honor of visiting the White House, the experience had a profound impact on him personally and reinforced the importance of perseverance, hard work, and pursuing one’s passions. Raj’s story is a reminder that the pursuit of excellence and innovation can open doors to unexpected opportunities and bring recognition to one’s endeavors.
The White House visit also inspired Raj to continue pushing the boundaries of scientific research, to make a positive impact in the world, and to strive for further recognition and collaboration in the future. It was a powerful reminder that with determination, dedication, and the support of a great team, anything is possible.
As I ended my visit with, Raj shared with me that the memory of that extraordinary day at the White House will forever be etched in his mind. It stands as a symbol of his remarkable journey from humble beginnings in Nepal to the pinnacle of recognition in the United States.
It motivates all of us to reach even greater heights, to continue making a difference, and to inspire others to pursue their dreams relentlessly and affirms that the best of American Democracy is still at work right here in the Triangle. I am very grateful to see so many Nepali Americans thrive in the All America City of Morrisville and the entire Triangle Region. In fact, just last week, I paid a visit to the Nepal Embassy and shared this sentiment with the Deputy Nepalese Ambassador Kumar Kharel.
The Raj Bhandari story is a remarkable adventure of self-discovery, growth, and resilience. He never lost sight of his dreams and aspirations and seized every opportunity that came his way, pursuing higher education, gaining valuable industry experience, and eventually took the leap into entrepreneurship.
It is a testament to the power of determination, adaptability, and embracing the unknown.
We eagerly anticipate the new chapters yet to be written, not only by Raj Bhandari but other immigrant enterpreneurs as well, who leave their mother countries to pursue and live out the American Dream.