We sat down with Amna Shah, founder of AHS Consulting, a global IT and consulting solutions provider headquartered in Chattanooga. She shares about her experiences as an immigrant, a business owner and an accomplished professional who takes pride in giving back.
Trend: How long have you been in business and what makes Chattanooga the best location for your business?
I’ve been opening businesses since 2002 but the current main business we have is AHS Consulting, which we opened in 2014.
When I was offered a job in Chattanooga, I didn’t know a place like it existed (coming from Chicago) but when I was invited to spend time here, my family fell in love with the hospitality and warmth of the people here. The entrepreneurial spirit and the support system available to new businesses is unparalleled to any city I’ve seen. The talent-scene and airport is also quickly taking shape to support the growth as well.
Trend: You're involved with the Chamber's International Business Council (IBC). How does IBC support international business in our community?
My company, AHS Consulting, received the first-ever award for international business in 2017 given to us by the IBC. We were elated to be recognized. The following year, 2018, I wanted to make an impact for other international businesses in Chattanooga and inquired about serving on the board. Immediately after, I was invited to become a board member which was a no brainer as IBC does so much to bring our international community together and become a backbone of support for each other in whatever ways we can. For example, when I’ve needed employees for my company, I've tapped into the resources available at UTC's College of Business through another board member, and the job advertisement was posted quickly with qualified graduate students responding. We can certainly even take it to the next level and have a directory of resources, but we will get there.
Trend: What other ways are you/your company involved in making a difference in our community?
My company and I help fund a small private nonprofit school, Annoor Academy, to support some of the refugee families trying to adapt in a new environment, that also attend the school. I’m personally on the board of the school as well as the board of the IBC. Sponsoring events for the IBC, serving as their VP of communication, and spreading awareness is my motto for this year. We are also involved as sponsoring members of ChaTech and other community organizations that enable tech in Chattanooga, especially if it involves women and kids.
Pictured above: (Shah far left) The AHS Consulting Team celebrates after a successful unveiling of i-Card at the Synergy Global event. i-Card (business card app) was a sponsor and presenter and is an incubated company completely funded by AHS.
Trend: How did you get into your field of work?
I came to the U.S. in 1999 to attend college while also working at a silk flower warehouse. I learned about logistics and importing of merchandise from there. After I got my associate degree in International Business in 2001, I was interviewed at my college’s placement fair by a headhunter who called me a bit later that she wanted me to go in for an interview for an Import Agent position at a freight forwarding company. I wasn’t sure about the position and if I would be a good fit. But she explained it was an entry-level position and so I gave it a shot. I was the fifth interviewee for the day and the one with the least related experience. But I was hired on the spot to start the following Monday. I had apparently blown away my manager with my answers to interview questions. I didn’t stop there and proceeded to obtain my bachelor's and master's degrees in the evenings after my full-time job ended each day, which later opened doors for me to become the Financial Analyst, Controller and then Finance Manager of the same company. After more than seven years working there and helping install a worldwide acclaimed freight forwarding software, CargoWise – I then joined another British freight forwarder before joining Steam Logistics in Chattanooga (owned by Lamp Post Group) as their CFO. About six months into the position, I decided I wanted to help more freight forwarders around the world become more efficient with their use of automation facilitated by CargoWise software. Coupled with my accounting expertise, AHS Consulting took off within the first year and we grew too big too quickly, which has its challenges as well as its blessings. It's all about being in the right place at the right time. Looking back at it all – it’s just wild!
Trend: What do you enjoy about it?
I’m very passionate about what I do. I believe in the system we install for our customers and back the solutions that we present 100 percent. I enjoy solving our customers' unique problems by bringing automation to an archaic industry outside of CargoWise usage. We interface between customers' existing systems and track and trace portals for their containers and goods in addition to anything/everything they can think of. As an accountant, I’m also an advisor to multiple freight forwarders looking to make educated decisions about their growth in the industry, helping them make investment decisions or helping with their yearly audits and budgeting. Every day brings a new challenge in my life which wouldn’t have been possible if I was a dry, boring accountant.
Trend: What inspired you to launch your own business?
My inspiration was a unique need in the industry for an expert from a freight background, someone who was also a degreed accountant savvy with technology, to help freight forwarders and customs house brokers become more efficient at moving freight and information.
Trend: Tell us about your experience as an immigrant. How has it shaped your perspective and influenced your current involvement?
My experience as an immigrant from day one was to achieve what I set out for – to live my American Dream with the grace of God Almighty. In the United States the only thing that can hold you back from achieving anything is yourself.
A common misconception is that immigrants come to this country we call home and take away jobs. But I defy that misconception everyday as my company has created jobs for the locals in Chattanooga as well as nationwide and even in Canada. We have also embarked on a yearly plan to give back by educating kids in the U.S. and overseas in rural areas of the world. I personally believe enabling people with the gift of education is the key to a bright future for the world and to help people to become proficient in a trade and become self-sufficient.
Trend: What's an interesting fact about you that not many people know?
I’m a thrill-seeker who loves to try new things such as skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding and whatnot. I’m still a sponge and want to learn new things every day of my life. I think the best way to learn about people is to travel the world, and that’s my next quest: to travel and learn about different cultures and customs firsthand. I try to do this twice a year which keeps me going and is my motivation that gets me out of bed every morning. I believe if you stop learning, you become obsolete. And if you stop dreaming, you die. That’s why we should all dream big for a big life. The only thing stopping you is you or karma.