A long way from Laos

Dr. Minny South is an optometrist who opened her office in Henrico County in 2008.

Khammany Southammavong was born in Laos. Now she lives in Virginia and owns her own business.

How did a 5 year-old-girl who left her native country grow up to become an optometrist and own a business in eastern Henrico?

Minny South ( as she goes by) says her parents and nine siblings helped her get to where she is today.

However, as I talked with her, I realized she also has a quality that many happy, successful people have. She has a sense of adventure.

Minny didn’t have much choice in coming to the U.S. Her parents brought the family here in hopes of a better life. But she had the courage to venture from her new home in  California to attend optometry college in Florida.

Although southern California and Florida  have warm climates, they don’t share many other similarities.  Life in the south would be different for Minny but she says with few optometry schools in the country, she knew she had to make the journey.

After college, she decided not to go back to California. She says there was less competition for jobs in this part of the country.  She moved to central Virginia when a job offer came along even though this area is even less like California. One major difference here, she says, is that there isn’t a large Laotian community.

But she and her husband, who is Vietnamese, have settled in here. They’re raising their 9 month-old daughter. And about four years ago, Minny  had the courage to open her own business despite tough economic times.

Minny is a long way from home but she says she feels right at home doing business in Henrico County.

You can read more of her story  in this week’s Henrico Citizen and see a video about her and another young couple who just opened a new nail salon business.

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