Advancing Immigrant Entrepreneurship

The choice to immigrate is itself in many ways an entrepreneurial act, and immigrant-owned businesses–from the neighborhood storefront to the new technology venture–have always played a key role in immigrant economic and social integration and the fabric of the U.S. economy as a whole. Nationally, foreign born residents start new businesses are more than twice the rate of the native-born. In Massachusetts, where immigrants make up 15% of the population, they own 18% of all businesses and in 2012 founded 61% of new businesses. Immigrant-owned or founded companies help root and revive urban neighborhoods, including some of the most disadvantaged, and dominate sectors across the state economy, from restaurants and food services (38%) to biotech (38%). Latino and Asian-owned businesses alone employ over 50,000 Massachusetts residents, with sales receipts of over $7 billion.

Despite these successes, immigrants often face unique barriers to realizing their entrepreneurial dreams, including limited English language proficiency, poor credit history, lack of technical support and access to information, and structural barriers to lending. The Institute aims to tap into the potential of would-be entrepreneurs and help address these barriers through efforts in the following areas:

  • Information-sharing, training, and research: NAII has established an online Business Resource Center with information on business regulations, training and technical support services available to business owners, and other relevant services. We have also developed training and reference materials targeted at immigrants and refugees wishing to open and expand small businesses, as well as the community-based organizations that serve these individuals.
  • Building stakeholder relationships: Leveraging the MIRA Coalition’s membership network and strong relationships with state executive agencies, as well as the cross-sector expertise of its Advisory Board, the Institute works to enhance connections and relationships between local lenders and immigrant business owners, to expand access to capital resources and other business-development tools.
  • Improving public and business awareness: Finally, the Institute sponsors or co-sponsors events and media activities that publicize and promote the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs across the state and at all levels of the economy. These activities focus much of their attention on Massachusetts’ Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month, first declared by Governor Patrick in 2011.