June is Immigrant Heritage Month and in celebration, Pursuit is continuing to support the phenomenal growth and contributions of immigrant business owners in the U.S. by highlighting free and low-cost resources to inspire and support future successes among New Americans.
For hundreds of years, immigrants have come to the United States with ideas that have fueled America’s economic growth and, often, changed the world. In fact, according to the Center for American Entrepreneurship, nearly half of the businesses listed on the Fortune 500® in 2017 are the result of the hard work and creativity of new, first- and second-generation Americans.
Vision, dedication and strong work ethics continue to be hallmarks of many successful immigrant business owners, whether they operate corner stores or are in technology, manufacturing, design, food or fashion. While immigrant business owners have unique challenges, there are also more community resources available than ever before. In this article we highlight some of the resources and funding sources available to help immigrant entrepreneurs reach their small business goals.
Resources for funding
One of the most challenging aspects of starting and growing a business is access to funds—and that’s true for nearly all entrepreneurs.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, immigrant business owners tend to have more startup funding available than native-born American entrepreneurs—typically, from personal savings and from loans from family members and members of their communities. When funding is needed, many immigrant business owners face challenges similar to others in the small business community such as insufficient credit histories or lack of banking relationships.
There are reputable alternative lenders in communities that can help immigrants gain access to funding with fair terms. Here are some helpful resources:
- Pursuit has a range of free and low cost business-related services that are available throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. These include help preparing for loans, financial management training, marketing assistance and more. These services are available in Spanish, French and English.
- New York City’s Department of Small Business Services launched a new Immigrant Business Initiative specifically to meet the needs of immigrant entrepreneurs. Among the services available are business courses, pro bono legal help and access to low-cost loans, with help available in at least eight languages.
- The Business Center for New Americans is another New York City-based resource for immigrant entrepreneurs to help people start and grow their businesses, as well as grow personal wealth through homeownership and other avenues.
- In Buffalo, Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) helps with business and personal resources for New Americans, with services available in many of the 60-plus languages spoken in the area.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) located around New York State and throughout the country can help small business owners create business plans, build business networks, organize financial information and prepare for the loan process.
Resources for legal assistance
For many immigrants opening businesses in the U.S., the number of local, state and federal legal and licensing laws and regulations is both a surprise and a barrier, and compliance can present major hurdles. In addition to the resources mentioned in the previous section, organizations that can help navigate the legal and regulatory landscape include:
- Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) offers pro bono legal services for business owners through the Microenterprise Project and the Immigration Project.
- New York State’s Office for New Americans, which offers workshops, mentoring and counseling throughout New York State on a variety of topics, from English-language classes to financing opportunities for immigrant-owned small businesses.
- In Western New York, Neighborhood Legal Services and the Volunteer Lawyers Project can assist or direct clients to resources that can help with startup and growth issues.
- In New York City, the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project provides legal guidance for immigrant entrepreneurs.
- ActionNYC provides additional legal guidance and resources for low-income immigrants in New York’s five boroughs.
Resources for accessing new markets
Coming to a country as large as the U.S. offers the potential to reach more customers, but this can be confusing or difficult to do. Fortunately, the following community-based business resources can help:
- Pursuit’s Business Advisory Services team can help small business owners learn to market their companies in ways that are low-cost, effective and strategic, with one-on-one mentoring and workshops available.
- Small Business Development Centers can guide immigrant entrepreneurs to a wealth of industry-related resources that can help business owners gain a foothold in manufacturing, technology and many other industries.
- Empire State Development’s Minority- and Women-Owned Business Certification has helped hundreds of immigrant small business owners gain access to competitive and potentially lucrative New York State government contracts.
- Immigrant Business is a website dedicated to the opportunities and challenges facing New American business owners, with information on product development and marketing.
Resources for franchise opportunities
Many immigrant business owners buy franchises—an approach that offers several advantages, including built-in product development, branding, marketing and guidance on legal, insurance and human resource compliance, among many other items. Franchises offer ready to go business opportunities and some of them reduce some of the risks associated with starting-up a business. The following resources can help New Americans find franchise opportunities in a range of purchase prices and industries:
- Entrepreneur’s 2018 Franchise 500 list offers an overview of franchise opportunities and startup costs.
- Franchising.com offers advice and resources that can help new and expanding franchise owners in a range of industries.
- Franchisegator.com is another online resource with both available opportunities listed, as well as articles and resources for new and experienced franchisees.
Pursuit is here to support small business success
Pursuit has experienced Business Advisors and staff throughout Connecticut, New York State, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania who are able to help immigrant entrepreneurs. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you small business grow.