CHAPTER TENUnlikely Heroes

In the United States, immigrants have historically been able to navigate paths to success and influence in a society that imagines itself open but remains closed in surprising ways. This success has led immigrants in the United States to start businesses at twice the rate of native‐born Americans. The career of Desh Deshpande, one of three unlikely heroes in the story of Danaris Mazara and Sweet Grace Heavenly Cakes, is an example of the power and impact that immigrants have on our society.

In the late twentieth century, when the United States was the undisputed beacon for talented people from around the world, his success grew out of a combination of talent, persistence, and timing. Born in India, the son of a labor commissioner (a highly prized civil service job), he was studious and focused, receiving an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from a local university. His aptitude for math and science served as a launching pad for Desh, who looked outside of India for greater opportunities. This led him to Canada for graduate school. Like many young, ambitious people, he had a plan. He was going to be an academic.

But fate and opportunity disrupt even the best laid plans, and in the late 1970s, after he had completed his PhD, academia lost its luster for Desh. Recognizing that his student was looking for a different path, a professor at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, suggested he join a small startup in Toronto. Working for a successful ...

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