By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma’s annual Entrepreneurial Summit features first-person startup stories from Oklahoma entrepreneurs. This year’s Summit lineup included Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, the co-founders of Home Creations.
Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh were born in Iran, the oldest of six brothers. They finished high school and two years of college there. Then, during the Iranian Revolution of the late 1970s, they immigrated to the U.S. with a powerful determination and commitment to their father to complete their college degrees.
It happened that the pair had a friend from high school in Oklahoma.
“We were driving from Indiana to Houston and called our friend,” Jalal said. “In five minutes, he was knocking on the hotel door. He told us that Oklahoma City is the best place to go to college, to raise a family and to live.”
The brothers enrolled in the University of Oklahoma and earned bachelor’s degrees in architecture; given world politics at the time, they had difficulty getting jobs. While working at Church’s Fried Chicken, delivering pizzas and doing clean up at the university, they saw a small convenience store for sale. They sought out a banker to buy the business.
They told the banker about their father, the master builder in Iran, and that they had earned their degrees in architecture. He said he would give them a construction loan to build a house, but not a dime for a convenience store.
“We were just inexperienced enough,” Jalal said, “that we said yes.”
Nine months later, they completed their first house; even though they netted only $2,000, they were on the path, continuing to build homes and continuing to go to school, both earning master’s degrees in architecture.
“We went to all our friends and if anyone loaned us the equity for the construction loan, we gave them half the profit,” Jalal said. “We kept on building homes and homes and homes. We were doing really good, but we did not understand what an oil bust means. The market collapsed, and we almost collapsed with the market.”
But they didn’t. They went from building one home in 1981 to 100 homes in 1994. Now they close about 480 homes a year — about two homes every working day. With about 110 staff employees and another 500 as contractors, the Farzanehs have built more than 12,000 homes in Oklahoma.
“Oklahomans are the nicest people you can find anywhere on the face of the earth,” Jalal said. “Everyone in our family went to the University of Oklahoma, the best education you can find. We are so blessed that we stayed in Oklahoma.”
Collectively their family has more than 30 degrees from OU.
Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh’s story is one of persistence, of serendipity, of failure, and of success. Their advice to the active and aspiring Oklahoma entrepreneurs is straightforward: “Dream it. Plan it. Achieve it. If two guys during the Iran Revolution can come to the U.S. and build a business here, there is nothing to stop anyone in Oklahoma from being the most successful person on the face of the world.”
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.