After traveling to the U.S. on a visa at age 18, Hoil landed in Colorado and worked in restaurants as a cook. Hoil didn't speak English at first. But he found his motivation to learn in a beautiful waitress, Jennifer.
"If I wanted to talk to her, I needed to speak English," said Hoil, laughing. He learned the language by asking bar patrons to repeat phrases to help him learn. "When my shift would end at 10 p.m., I would go talk to drunk people … trying to figure it out and put sentences together."
His strategy worked. Hoil and Jennifer, now his wife, have three children. After marrying, they moved to Virginia in 2006. Osiris Hoil worked in construction and rode the housing boom to support his family. But then he hit a roadblock in 2008, when the recession unraveled and he was laid off.
"I will never forget that day. My wife was pregnant and I begged for my job," Hoil said. "I told the owner he could pay me minimum wage, I can sweep the floors." He looked for work in construction and kitchens to no avail.
Those dead ends turned out to be a blessing in disguise.