Video production by Tim Anderson, r2 video productions
“My current dream is to bring international investment to Kansas City, and take businesses from here back to the Middle East.” This dream fires up Rayan Azab. In his role as international ambassador he connects worlds, brings people out of their comfort zones, and shows them a new way of thinking, a new way of doing business, that profits them. “There are many people who invest in the United States, but they always invest in places that are famous…but nobody ever wants to look at Kansas City. I grew up here. It grew me. I gotta pay it back somehow.”
Move to America
Rayan was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was 14. His father had gone to school here, at Park College (now Park University), and provided Rayan with the same opportunity. “The first year was different for me, everything was, I would say, new. But then I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed every part of it. It taught me a lot. It taught me about different cultures. It definitely changed my life around.” Rayan attended St. Pius X High School, and took his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management from Park University in 2006. In 2010, Rayan took his MBA from the University of Liverpool.
In college, Rayan started his first business at only 18. He was working at Liberty Bank as a teller and he “…started AZDEF. I started AZDEF just to get entertainment to the inner kids in the city, that were either doing drugs, were getting into trouble on the weekends, or drinking and driving. So I did all these sober parties. I would bring in local talent. [The kids] would come into the parties, the fee was like 10 bucks and you would get unlimited pop and food. But you cannot leave until one o’clock [am] if it’s not an emergency. We would make them sign waivers that they cannot leave just to keep them, so it was like what they did in a prom.” Later on, Rayan hosted “non-sober parties.” “I got into different clubs, mostly after parties for different artists.” Rayan and his partner, James, leveraged the entertainment connections of James’ father who was a former president of Panasonic.
Rayan looks for honesty, persistence, and passion in his business partners. “Persistence to me is really, really important because I was persistent in my business even when I had really bad days and financially wasn’t secure, but I pushed. I pushed. Persistence shows me that the reason you are doing a business in not because of just money. It’s because you really have the passion. And that shows me that our passion together could grow.”
One of those passionate partners is Duane Jordan, an ACA member. Together, Rayan and Duane help businesses from Kansas City get a foothold in the Middle East. “A lot of people go internationally and they want to open these big offices, hire these employees, and four years later they’re closing down. Because they think it’s about just the presence. It’s not about the presence. It’s about having the right partner or representative. Because you have to have somebody who knows the market. It’s a different market, a different culture, a different everything. So for you to invest, and just hire employees, and do the same mentality you doing in Kansas City or New York, it’s not going to work.”
Rayan is currently working with RAD-Planning, a company specializing in the design of radiology and imaging facilities. Through Rayan’s work, they are exhibiting in the Saudi Health conference May 16 -18, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Rayan bridges both cultures, and provides a lower cost entry point into the Middle East. “I can represent you there. I’m American, I’m Middle Eastern. I have the knowledge of both countries. I speak your language; I speak their language. So why do you invest all these millions of dollars when you can invest such a little thing, then we grow together. Because I’m not just representing you. I’m going to bring you investments and partnerships. So I’m going to look for your interests. This is the whole goal.”
Rayan Azab is living his dream. He’s bringing international investment to Kansas City, and taking Kansas City businesses to the Middle East. He’s giving back in a huge way to the city that helped make him who he is.