Citation Press–Rags to Riches

Tom Tran arrived in the United States in 1975—broke and alone. Today, he owns a successful printing operation in the Silicon Valley.

BY CAROLINE MILLER

Tom Tran’s story is the very definition of an American dream.

It is the story of a penniless refugee who finds his way to America and, through sheer determination, hard work and a little bit of luck, builds his fortune. It is a story many people have come to regard as myth and legend. But Tom Tran has proven that legends do exist.

Today, Tran is the owner of Citation Press, a $6.5 million company located in Santa Clara, CA. But 25 years ago, Tran’s life was in a state of serious flux.

In 1975, a 21-year-old Tom Tran found himself living in a Pennsylvania refugee camp. He was broke, alone and unable to speak the language. Tran, a jet mechanic for the South Vietnamese air force, had escaped to the U.S. by boat following the fall of Saigon.

After three months in the camp, Tran landed a job as a janitor in the printing department of GTE in Marion, OH. It was to be his first encounter with the printing industry.

Within three months, his supervisor—recognizing Tran’s willingness to work hard—promoted him to utilities helper. Meanwhile, Tran had enrolled in printing and business classes. He was learning to adapt to his new world; but there was one thing to which he just could not quite adapt: the weather.

“I wasn’t used to Ohio winters. I came from a country where it was always 90 degrees,” he says with a laugh. So, in 1980, Tran headed to California.

On the West Coast, Tran held a variety of jobs, but finally found work with a printing company, eventually becoming the manager. But there was one hitch: The owner could not provide health benefits. It was then that Tran knew it was time to strike out on his own.

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