MANILA, Philippines – Filipino fashion designer Josie Natori topped a magazine’s list of seven self-made immigrant millionaires in the United States.
The 64-year-old Natori, who is the founder and chief executive of the Natori Company, beat out Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who originally came from Austria, as well as Russian Sergey Brin, who co-founded Internet search giant Google Inc.
The list was made by personal finance magazine Kiplinger and published on the website Yahoo on Friday.
Natori moved from the Philippines to New York in 1964 to pursue her studies at the Manhattanville College in Westchester, New York. After earning a degree in economics, she worked in Wall Street, including Merrill Lynch. She became a US citizen in 1974.
Natori, the daughter of contractor F. F. Cruz, made her fortune in high-end women’s sleepwear and lingerie. Today, she expanded her business to include home furnishings and perfumes.
“Today, she has nearly 400 employees. Her husband is chairman, and her son, Kenneth, is vice-president of finance and e-commerce. Her business has expanded to include fragrances, eyewear and home décor. In 2011, Natori teamed up with mass retailer Target for a budget-friendly line of lingerie and loungewear. That same year, her company generated $150 million in retail sales,” Kiplinger said about Natori.
"Some people may see their immigrant status as an obstacle," she told the magazine. "I have always viewed it as one of my biggest assets. Natori is unique in the design world, because of its East-meets-West aesthetic. All of that is due to my background and heritage."
Her advice to immigrant entrepreneurs? "There is no better place in the world for an immigrant to succeed than in the US Follow your dream and make it happen," she told Kiplinger.
Schwarzenegger was ranked third in the list, with Brin at No. 5.
Also in the list are: Lowell Hawthorne, Founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill, originally from Jamaica; Shama Kabani, founder and CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, from India; Carlos Castro, president and CEO of Todos Supermarket, from El Salvador; and Jose Wilfredo Flores, owner and founder of W Concrete, also from El Salvador.