Yassin Terou

Yassin’s Falafel House, Knoxville, TN

Watch the short film

Whatever happens outside of this store just forget about it and come in. You are safe here.

Fleeing Syria

Yassin Terou never had any intention of leaving Syria. His family was there. Work. Friends. But war forced him to leave it all behind. He relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee, with a suitcase and a few hundred dollars. He spoke no English and knew no one in the United States.

I thought maybe things would get better and I would go back but this never happened.

Community through food

Yassin is proud to be from Syria—and he is proud to live in America, too. A lot of his customers have never tried falafel before, and he’s thrilled to introduce them to his cuisine. Some of them end up thinking “falafel” is his last name: “Not many people know my last name. They think I’m ‘Yassin Falafel.’ I’m not mad about it. If they remember me for the good food and good taste, I’m really happy with it.”

The people who decide they don’t like refugees, Muslims, immigrants, we have to change their ideas about it. This is our job. This is our message.

Keeping the dream going

Yassin’s dream doesn’t end with perfect falafel (crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside). His dream is also to bring people together, all kinds of people. So at Yassin’s Falafel House, everyone is welcome—from Tennesseans who have never tried falafel to the refugees whom Yassin hires to make it—to share a sandwich and a conversation. Next for him? More locations, more safe spaces.

By the numbers

Yassin is just one of millions of entrepreneurs in the U.S. pursuing their dreams, creating jobs, and building our communities.


small businesses in the U.S. employ 48% of all U.S. employees.


of businesses in Tennessee are small businesses.


of Syrian immigrants are business owners—more than double the rate of immigrants overall and more than triple the rate of U.S. citizens by birth.


of immigrants in the labor force are business owners, compared with 3% of U.S. citizens by birth.

All data above sourced from sba.gov & americanprogress.org

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