Immigrant populations bring a wide range of diversity to the countries where they migrate. From food to philosophy to cultural contributions, they add to the richness of any community. Immigrants are also more likely to become entrepreneurs.
Data shows that immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada and the U.S. are intimately involved in creating new businesses. In Canada, immigrants are 41.7% more likely to start a business than native-born Canadians. In the U.S., that figure is even higher, with immigrants 80% more likely than those born in the U.S.
Given the scale of these numbers, what drives immigrants to become entrepreneurs? Here are a few key reasons:
High Tolerance for Risk
Entrepreneurs in any country seem to be “wired” differently. Their passion, motivation, curiosity, and ability to make intuitive leaps set them apart from traditional work structures. They understand the risks involved in failure but are willing to take those risks to get ahead.
Immigrant populations are no different and may have a higher risk tolerance than native-born peers in their new country. Many immigrants faced challenges, even life-threatening ones, in their native countries. These challenges included persecution, unbreachable social hierarchies, psychological impacts from political unrest or famine, and more.
Because of this, they already have a high tolerance for risk and are more willing to immigrate and explore business opportunities in a new country when they arrive. Free from harmful risks in their home country, they see a new business as one that could deliver positive outcomes for them and their families.
Immigrant populations tend to form close communities in the country they migrate to, and these communities are often geographically close. Language, culture, religion, and other challenges may make obtaining good jobs more difficult.
Immigrant entrepreneurs may begin their new businesses to create opportunities for themselves to overcome the barrier to entry into traditional employment. This tactic may mean starting a business that serves their community or others like them. It helps establish credibility and fosters a sense of connection and belonging to their new country.
Expanding Existing Markets
If their new community is large enough, there may be an opportunity to expand existing markets with a new business that allows penetration of existing products and services into the immigrant community.
Many immigrant communities have strong connections across provinces and states. Developing a business to bring goods and services to those communities can cross cultural and linguistic barriers that traditional companies within that market may not have been able to penetrate.
Catering to Niche Markets
The opposite is a motivator as well. In large immigrant communities, while they may be happy in their new country, they desire products and services from home that they’re willing to pay for, creating the opportunity for a lucrative niche market.
An immigrant entrepreneur may start a business to deliver a hard-to-find product range, such as food or clothing items imported from their previous land. Or it may be digital or media products to provide entertainment and information in a language or genre preferred by that community.
Resources and Training for Immigrant Entrepreneurs
Becoming an entrepreneur can be challenging for anyone. But for immigrant entrepreneurs, the barriers may be even higher. The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre at Georgian College aids entrepreneurs in training, funding, connection, and mentoring.
If you’re an immigrant entrepreneur, we can help you develop your ideas and connect you to a business community that will work to help you succeed. Contact us to learn more.