Reprinted from Huffingtonpost on 04/19/2011. Click here to see original piece.

Shabnam Rezaei, Immigrant Entrepreneurs Challenge the Barriers

Shabnam Rezaei

Sometimes entrepreneurs don't find government incentives to encourage their launches. Born in Iran and raised in Austria, Shabnam Rezaei worked for ten years both in London and NYC in finance before she launched her start-up, Big Bad Boo, a media production and distribution company dedicated to teaching children about different cultures through entertainment. One current project, a cartoon series called Mixed Nutz, which puts Persian Babak together with a group of friends from Korea, Cuba, India and the US to learn about each other's cultures, has reached 32 million viewers on 32 PBS stations. Her next TV series, an animated series of the legendary Persian tales of 1001 Nights, launches later this year in 50 countries and 12 languages. Shabnam has also recently launched a website,, to sell games, DVDs and books to teach children about different cultures, including comic books based on 1001 Nights.

As an educated and fully acculturated entrepreneur, Shabnam Rezaei says her biggest problem is "simply maintaining a New York City presence for her company." While she loves New York and retains a sales and marketing office here, she has moved her production facilities to Vancouver because "they've lured us there with 40% tax credits on production. We spend some $8 million on production each year which goes to Canada though I am a US citizen. New York needs to think more about attracting media companies because the talent is certainly here." Shabnam recently won an "international fellows award" from the NYC EDC, which provides her with networking opportunities, and she hopes "an opportunity to tell Mayor Bloomberg directly that I would love to keep all of my business production in the city if only the incentives were equal to what I find in Canada."