A lot of data proves that immigrants, in general, are highly entrepreneurial. Data shows that 5.4% own a business in Canada compared to 4% of native-born Canadians. The same results also replicate in other countries, with 55% of the United States' highest-performing startups founded by immigrants.
But within immigrant populations, there is another crucial sub-category that defies assumptions. This group is specifically designated as refugees fleeing economic, political, or other forms of hardship.
And their contribution to entrepreneurship is no less significant.
Why Refugees Make Great Entrepreneurs
Studies show that refugees demonstrate more loyalty to the companies they work for than any other group. With this drive and connection, it’s easy to see why entrepreneurship may be the next step for many in this group.
Here are a few reasons why refugees start new businesses at a higher rate than other immigrants:
- Resilience – Refugees have come from difficult situations. These situations may include poverty, political persecution, or the threat of physical harm. They’ve learned how to bounce back and survive unspeakable challenges. The resilience they’ve gained contains many entrepreneurs' core beliefs and habits.
- Gaining Respect – Most refugees are aware of refugee status perceptions and misconceptions. Because of this, they often seek to prove themselves as a viable, contributing member of their new communities. This drive to give back to the communities that house them and build a structure for their family within these communities motivates them to start businesses to sustain themselves without having to rely on the government and individuals.
- Motivated by Loss – In many cases, refugees have lost everything. Family, friends, community, connection, and opportunity may have been denied from them in their former country. Refugees often seek to build on the loss and realize opportunities for themselves and their families that were never before obtainable.
- Access to Technology – Many immigrant entrepreneurs have the education and willingness to embrace and adopt technology to achieve their goals, but their opportunities in their old country may have been limited or nonexistent. Refugees are especially hard to hit and are 50% less likely than others to have an internet-capable phone. As high as 20% have no access to the internet, and many that do cannot afford it. Gaining access to technology and connectivity helps drive refugee entrepreneurship.
Helping Refugee Entrepreneurs
There are many ways to help refugee entrepreneurs and allow them to shine with new ideas and innovation. First, governments can adopt incentives for immigrant and refugee entrepreneurship, as do Canada and the U.S.
Private companies can help too. Many companies are already looking abroad and into the immigrant population to fill hard-to-find skillsets. This trend can be extended to refugee populations with outreach to international NGOs and charities.
Communities can play a role as well. Local, provincial, and regional community organizations exist for many groups within the immigrant population ranging from cultural to linguistic to nationality focus. Adding an entrepreneurship resource to these existing groups is a logical next step.
There are many outreach programs packed with insights, practical guidance, thought leadership, and more from entrepreneur leaders dedicated to building immigrant and refugee entrepreneurship programs. One great example is XcelerateNOW, starting October 25, 2022.
With workshops and networking events designed to guide community members in their entrepreneurial journey, this program connects newcomer and refugee entrepreneurs and startups to events, resources, and activities. This vibrant and deeply experienced community also offers mentorship, networking and funding activities.
And, of course, one of the most direct and assistance-rich pathways to refugee entrepreneurship is through academic institutions. The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College provides training, connections, funding, and mentorship to new entrepreneurs.
There are programs for new entrepreneurs in a diversity-friendly environment where academic, real-world business experience, and students come together to help individuals build, learn, and grow their vision. Contact us to learn more about how HBEC can help new and arriving refugee entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.