Apr 08, 2011
Alex Harb came to the United States from Lebanon nearly 11 years ago hoping to get a college degree and eventually land a job.
Beyond that, however, Harb had more questions than answers about how he would accomplish those goals.
His situation was compounded by the fact that he knew little English. He was raised speaking French as a second language.
But Harb — as he often does — persevered.
He came to Wichita in August 2000 and enrolled at Wichita State University . He also considered schools in North Carolina, but chose Wichita because WSU accepted him first.
Harb paid his way through college by busing and waiting tables, and selling pocket knives on ebay, learning English along the way.
Overcoming obstacles, he says, was nothing new in his life because he grew up amid turmoil in his native Lebanon.
"It gives you the survivor mentality," says Harb, 30.
Four years after coming to Wichita, Harb had accomplished one of his goals and set out to accomplish the other.
With a computer science degree in hand, Harb started Ribbit Computers in December 2004, and the company has grown steadily since.
Ribbit now has 55 employees across five retail and computer repair stores in Wichita. The company also includes a business solutions division, which launched earlier this year.
Harb says he started his own company after first looking to buy a technology business in Wichita. That plan changed since nothing was for sale.
"The reward is I have something to do where every day is different," Harb says.
When he started Ribbit, Harb had a basic understanding of what it takes to make a business successful.
He started working at his dad's wholesale grocery business in Lebanon as a teenager.
There, Harb, who has five sisters and one brother, learned the value of hard work and how not to succumb to obstacles.
Keeping his goal in mind helps him get through difficult situations.
He says he honed his customer-service skills while working as a waiter at Red Rock Canyon Grill in Bradley Fair.
"The more you take care of the customer, the more reward you are going to get out of it," Harb says.
Transferring those lessons to the computer business has helped Harb be successful with Ribbit, say those who know him.
"He was really good at customer service and I think he took that with him to Ribbit Computers," says John Arnold, who owns Red Rock Canyon. "He's really passionate about that."
Arnold says Harb wasn't afraid to work hard to accomplish his goals, and he often came to work early and stayed late.
Keith Stevens, senior vice president of Southwest National Bank , who has served as a financial advisor to Harb, says he has a solid grasp of how to make a business successful.
Stevens says Harb understands how to strategically grow a business.
"I just admire his business acumen," Stevens says. "His expansion has been well thought out."
Harb started Ribbit Computers after working as an intern at LSI Corp. in Wichita.
When he's not working, Harb enjoys pheasant hunting and playing soccer.
"I enjoy what I'm doing," Harb says.