Chamber Insider Blog

Asian-American & Pacific Islander History Month Spotlight: Asim Shaikh

Thank you to Asim Shaikh, a Chamber Board Member and business owner in Loudoun at cbd-x communicate by design!

Where were you born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?

“I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. When I was 10 years old, I attended a summer program at my older brother’s boarding school in Lahore, Aitchison College, and was instantly drawn to the sprawling 175-acre campus of the elite, British-era institution. At 10 years old, I was already a negotiator. I convinced my parents to send me to boarding school. I attended Aitchison until I graduated at age 17.

I came to the United States to attend Bowling Green University in Ohio and fell in love with the country. But after finishing school in the 1980s, I decided to go back to Pakistan because I thought I would have a better chance at becoming a CEO in my own country rather than the US, as I was a person of color.

I decided to move back to America when my son was fourteen so he could have the chance at the type of education he needed. He wanted to be an engineer, and we knew he would have more opportunities in the US.

By that time, I had already made a living in Pakistan, running several of my own businesses and researched opportunities in the US to do the same. I found this company, then named Communicate By Design, in Sterling, VA. I saw that their owners were looking to retire and sell the company, and right away I flew to the US to meet with them and make an offer. I spent a lot of time getting to know the owners.

Now because I was from another country, it was nearly impossible for me to obtain a loan from a bank in the US. The owners of cbd-x decided to let me purchase the company with a down payment and agreed to finance the sale for me with a contract so I could run the company and make payments to them overtime. That kind of opportunity is what makes the United States incredible. That a person from Pakistan can buy a business, get an investor visa and have the seller finance his purchase, all done legally.

When did you launch your first business, and how did you get into this line of work?

I started my career in Pakistan working for a small company that had a dealership for Compaq Computers. From the beginning, I worked like I owned the company, and that has been my attitude throughout my career, irrespective of where I worked. In 2003 I decided to quit my job and own my own business.

I started a small outsourcing business; when that got going, I added a cellular franchisee, and then I partnered with an Indian company to provide enterprise text messaging solutions. Using text messaging for business was a novel idea in 2006. I hit the pavement educating prospects and offering select companies a one-month free trial. It was a slow process but, in a few years, I had built a sizable client base and a very profitable business.

I didn’t really have experience with marketing or creatives services outside of B2B sales when I purchased communicate by design-x, but it’s been a really fun journey getting to learn through watching our teamwork. They’re incredibly creative and inspiring.

What is it like owning/running a business in Loudoun

Right from the beginning, I saw Loudoun and the United States as a whole really embrace people that looked different from them. Loudoun is predominately white, with the second-largest demographic being Asians. I’ve never felt out-of-place owning or running a business here because we live in a culture that gives opportunities you can’t find anywhere else in the world. They’re really open-minded.

What’s the best part of your job and why?

The best part of my job at communicate by design-x is working with our team. We have a small, close-knit group of incredibly talented and creative people who all really care about what they’re doing. As the CEO, it makes my job much easier because I never have to worry or micromanage anyone. I can focus on running our company and know that our team is always delivering the best work for our clients.

What does Asian-American and Pacific Islander History Month mean to you?

Over the years, Asians have done exceedingly well in America. Asian Americans are in all kinds of professions and even own over 600,00 businesses. We are doctors, engineers, scientists, nurses, bankers, and everything in between. The United States doesn’t just welcome foreigners; they celebrate them as well. This country is still the land of opportunity, and that is what I’m celebrating this month.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?

I have been an avid Golfer for a long time. I have tried to play Golf in cold weather, but my body doesn’t agree with it as much, so recently, I’ve been spending more time with my second favorite activity, and that is reading books. I’m also a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan and love football season.

communicate by design-x is a SWaM certified results-driven boutique marketing and branding firm with a 30 year legacy in the Washington DC Metro Area. We help organizations achieve their goals with strategic branding and creative marketing campaigns. Learn more: