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The perception of the American dream brings many people to this country and to Massachusetts in particular. People who migrate here to follow that dream are likely to be entrepreneurial risk-takers and this concept of immigrants is part of our American folk wisdom. In every Census since 1880, immigrants have been more likely to be self-employed than the native-born population.
Non-traditional Paths to Capital
Due to the various and frequent barriers to lending faced by the immigrant community, many Massachusetts foreign-born entrepreneurs have sought out and developed non-traditional paths to capital when starting a business.
For the average new company, 64 percent of start-up financing is internal equity (chiefly the entrepreneur's own resources), 30 percent comes from external loans (both bank and credit card), and the rest is made up of loans from friends, family and sought-after external equity (i.e. angel investors or venture capitalists). Immigrant-founded businesses are more likely to be deficient in access to both external loans and external equity and must find creative ways to make up this additional 36 percent of financing at inception.
In order to secure adequate capital and business assets, foreign-born entrepreneurs have relied on non-traditional funding sources, namely their local credit union or community bank and their social networks.
Barriers to Lending
Common barriers to lending faced by foreign born entrepreneurs include lack of initial capital, inadequate credit history, limited access to information, training, or resources, a lack of institutional support for immigrant needs (in both the public and private policy and financial sectors) and predatory practices aimed at people who are foreign born.
Lack of initial capital may account for the fact that Massachusetts immigrant entrepreneurs generally start their businesses after they have lived in the United States for about a decade. At that point, the entrepreneurs' asset base is drawn from funds that they have saved and/or borrowed from friends and family. Foreign-born entrepreneurs may use real property ownership and management as a means to build equity, which can then be used in their business. Developing and maintaining these assets clearly takes several years and much effort.