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Are Immigrants Better Entrepreneurs?

Recently I have been able to rub shoulders with a number of immigrants who are interested in buying businesses and who are interested in making a new start in Canada. Most recently my encounters have been with people both from India and Ukraine. It fascinates me to watch their passion for improving themselves and seizing opportunities. I look at this in contrast to many native Canadians I know who are satisfied with their lot in life and sitting back on their laurels and waiting for retirement and their pensions to kick in. In many cases their wealth is partially the result of the endeavors of their parents or grandparents who themselves were immigrants.

For many immigrant families, coming to a new country is not only a risk, but a necessity. The recent immigrants I have met have come to Canada to escape war, or poverty, or economic situations in their countries that left them few options for work, and look for a better life. But why do so many immigrants end up starting or working in their own business?

A study published in 2014 by the Kuaffman Foundation found that in 2012, immigrants were twice more likely to start their own business than a second or third generation North American. These businesses provide jobs, pump money into the economy, and contribute to the communities where they are operating. One only has to look around our communities to see that most immigrants are working hard to provide a better life for their families, many times in family run businesses.

But do immigrants really work harder than those people who are established in a country? There is the argument that when immigrants like the ones I have met recently come to a country, that in order to find opportunities other than baseline jobs, they need to own businesses. The path to upward mobility for anyone is limited if you are unable to get a good paying job due to a lack of connections or language skills.

Running a business for anyone can be very difficult but imagine if you didn’t clearly understand the language or expectations of your customers. Having worked as a business coach with a number of immigrants in their businesses over the years, I can tell you that the stress of not clearly knowing the culture can lead to difficulty. Many immigrants find opportunities serving their own people in their new country. Others open restaurants or businesses bringing their food, flavors, and products to the new land. Finally others bring skill sets, knowledge, and technology that transforms and revives existing or traditional businesses in their new found land of opportunity.

I have never in my life worked harder than when my business was on the rocks. I had to struggle and fight for every dollar it seemed to find ways to make the business work. My guess is that immigrants starting businesses in Canada or the USA, or any other land where they are trying to establish a new beginning are faced with those similar situations. Either they make the business work or are faced with failure, shame and discouragement that faces any business entrepreneur. The difference might be that having lived in my community for decades, I knew that if I lost my business, because of my connections, and skills, I could probably go out and get a job working for someone else. This might not be the same

for a new immigrant. A reason why they might work harder is because failure is not an option.

In thinking about this issue, I had this discussion with a friend who is an accountant. He told me that what he noticed is that first generation immigrants do indeed work hard, save money and build wealth to provide for the second generation. The second generation, who also seem to have the same hard work ethic and are upwardly mobile, get educated and labour in school to become professionals. The third generation of immigrants seem to become acclimatized and engrained in the culture and don’t have the work ethic or determination of their parents and grandparents.

Many of our past generations came to North America in search of a better life and found one. They struggled through tough times and good times to create a future for themselves and their children. The entrepreneurial mindset of immigrants is something that we need more of in our culture to ensure a vibrant diverse economic future. Look around in your community today and be thankful for the immigrants that are providing jobs and running businesses that are contributing to the community in so many ways.

Dave Fuller MBA, is an Award Winning Business Coach, a Business Realtor and the Author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Dave now spends much of his time working with entrepreneurs who are looking to buy and sell businesses. Questions or comments email


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