She left Iran at 14. Now she runs a multimillion-dollar U.S. firm

anoosheh Oskouian
Anoosheh Oskouian, founder and CEO of Ship & Shore Environmental.

Anoosheh Oskouian has been a dreamer for as long as she can remember.

It was a childhood trait that her parents encouraged when she was growing up in Iran. It eventually brought her to America and inspired her to be an entrepreneur.

Oskouian, 52, was born in Iran, where it was customary for well-off families to send their children abroad for higher education.

She was just 14 when she came to the United States in 1978.

"I was a good student and very curious. I always wanted to explore," she said.

Oskousian, the oldest of four siblings, stayed with cousins in Denver and was settling into life there, when things in Iran completely changed.

"The Iranian Revolution happened, and I could not go back," she said.

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So Oskouian committed herself even harder to being successful in America -- even moving out on her own as a senior and setting strict curfews for herself.

"I was the only high schooler living in her own apartment," she said. "I did it because my goals were different from my cousins. I was chasing success."

In 2000, Oskouian founded Ship & Shore Environmental. The Long Beach, California, company manufactures systems that help businesses curb air pollution. It also assists big manufacturers in complying with emissions standards and reducing their carbon footprint.

"Our model is unique in the pollution control industry because we're like a one-stop shop for our clients," said Oskouian, who has an MBA and is trained as a chemical engineer.

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Oskouian graduating from the University of Colorado.

The business has offices nationwide with thousands of clients in the plastics, chemicals, auto and printing industries. It has grown to 100 employees with an annual revenue of $10 million. It also recently expanded to China.

Oskouian has yet to meet another female CEO in her industry.

"[It] is very male-dominated," she said. "98% of our clients are men. The engineers are men, the executives are men."

But she says she's never let gender get in her way.

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She was inspired by something her father told her when she was young.

"He would say that it's a lot better to work for yourself than for someone else," said Oskouian.

So after spending several years working on nuclear and petrochemical projects at a Texas firm, she decided to branch out on her own.

"I had an overwhelming need to do something more tangible that could positively impact the world we live in," she said.

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Oskouian celebrating with her parents after landing her first engineering job.

Oskouian's passion for the environment, coupled with her technical knowledge, gave her a unique perspective when launching her pollution control business.

"It's a very robust area because of ever-increasing regulations and enforcements on businesses," she said.

Oskouian became a U.S. citizen 25 years ago and was able to bring her parents and sisters to the U.S. in the 1990s.

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Oskouian with her husband and son.

In October 2015, Oskouian was named a Stevie Awards finalist for women in business for revolutionizing the pollution control industry. She is also a founding member of nonprofit C.H.I.L.D, which provides humanitarian aid to help children around the world stay in school.

"The organization also helps Iranian refugee families who make it to the U.S. get established and find their way around," said Oskouian. "I want to protect both my community and the environment."

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