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Do Immigrants Make Successful Entrepreneurs?

Over the past 5 years, I have spent a great deal of time working with immigrants who, for one reason or another, wish to try their hand at doing business in the United States, easily the world’s biggest and most dynamic economy.

Do Immigrants Make Successful Entrepreneurs

My work with immigrants is largely focused on preparing business plans that will be submitted to the immigration authorities as part of their investor visa petition. So I wondered: have the immigrants who came here for business been successful? Indeed, just the language and cultural barriers that most immigrants face would seem to be significant challenges.

I did some research and have come to learn that immigrants, for many years, have been very successful entrepreneurs. I was surprised to learn that 200 of the companies in the Fortune 500 were started by immigrants or children of immigrants. In fact, immigrants or children of immigrants launch 40% of all new businesses in the United States. That is a number that grabs your attention when you consider that only 13% of the American population was born outside of the U.S.

What’s going on? Why do immigrants tend to be successful as entrepreneurs? It turns out that a lot of research has gone into answering this question. Here is what we found:

  • For beginners, most immigrants do not come to the U.S. and other Western countries just for the business opportunity; they come for a better life. In many cases, they have lived with many greater challenges in their lives than just starting a business. According to Adrian Furnham, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “All entrepreneurs experience failure and rejection, but outsiders are often better prepared to not be devastated by hard times.”
  • In the same WSJ article, Dr. Furnham writes that “immigrants not only have the qualities that help any entrepreneur succeed, including aggressiveness and creative thinking but they get a big boost because many of the skills they picked up coping with a new world are transferable to the entrepreneurial world.
  • According to Patrick Bet-David, a blogger and entrepreneur who created the Valuetainment channel, other interesting immigrant characteristics include:
    • Thick skin
    • Patience
    • Willing to work long hours
    • Value money more
    • Willing to take risks
    • Willing to sacrifice
  • In an eBay “Open for Business” podcast episode, John Henry, whose parents were immigrants, mentions that among the qualities of immigrants is the willingness to work on a lean budget, and this makes them disciplined in all of their decisionmaking. He also relates that immigrants take advantage of their “invisible capital.” He defines invisible capital as all those things that you learn along the way from growing up to just simply living life.
  • An interesting opinion came from an article that appeared in Forbes magazine, Five Reason Why Immigrants Make Great Entrepreneurs to Boost an Economy. Immigrants, he says, know how to connect markets. They are more familiar with international trade and are often better prepared to operate across borders.

In our experience, immigrant entrepreneurs come from anywhere and will invest in virtually any type of business. Here is a small sampling of immigrants we have assisted in their business endeavors in the United States:

  • Pizza franchise – Belgium to Florida
  • Medical transcription – India to California
  • Innovative water bottle – Brazil to Florida
  • Specialized accounting software and services – Georgia to Illinois
  • Advertising and marketing – UAE to Illinois

If you would like to invest, live, and work in the United States or other western countries, do your homework. That means you should have a good idea about where you wish to live and in what type of business you wish to invest in. Know the immigration rules. Get good advice. Hire an experienced immigration attorney in the country to which you intend to immigrate to help you through the process and paperwork. And finally, if your visa requires a business plan, let us know if we can help!

Jimmy's background includes over 40 years in international, commercial, and investment banking, and nearly a decade as the principal shareholder and CEO of a rapidly growing manufacturing and distribution business in California. Today, Jimmy spends his time advising and consulting with entrepreneurs on matters related to business planning, as well as capital markets and funding strategies. Jimmy works with clients throughout the world in industries that include financial services, real estate, manufacturing and hospitality. View details.

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