Starting a Business as an Immigrant
Once your legal challenges of the immigration system have been cleared an you have a permanent residence , as far as starting your own business. From here on out, it’s a matter of developing your business from the ground up, as any other entrepreneur must. Fortunately, there are tons of resources available to help entrepreneurs globally whether natural-born citizens or recent immigrants.
Mentorships and Helpful Organizations
Mentor and professional organizations play an important role in almost any career. For immigrant entrepreneurs, these organizations can help you to navigate the difficulties of starting your own business.
Migration Hub is founded by CEO Ana Maria Alvarez Monge, who is a migrant herself. Her organization is comprised of other entities that help migrants and refugees, creating a global network that works to maximize impact. The organization offers physical space, in the form of hubs that serve as a bridge for local projects and sectors in hopes of fostering innovation. It also offers local networks, support, and networking, which when combined, create an large impact for refugee and migrant entrepreneurs. To benefit migrants, it offers educational programs, idea acceleration, project development space, and supporters which are understanding of their needs. For private, NGOs, and government sectors, they offer strategy in creating projects to benefit refugees’, asylum seekers’, and migrants’ inclusion. They currently have Hubs in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Israel, and Jordan.
ME4Change – Migrants Empowerment for Change
ME4Change offers a 16-week “on the job” training programme, mentoring schemes, and investor pitches. The initiative brings together organizations from various countries that are currently experiencing peak migration levels. Some of the events they host include speed dating, debates, meet and greets, question and answers, and introduction. They want young entrepreneurs to be able to maximize their opportunities to build business skills in an ecosystem. They are specifically targeting young migrant entrepreneurs (between the ages 18-34), especially those newly arriving, staying at least a year legally in the European Union, and female migrants. For young migrants to apply to their programme, they can fill out a questionnaire here, available in English, Finnish, French, and German.
ReDischool for Digital Integration
The ReDischool offers training and collaboration with the start up and digital industry. They have a summer school option which includes courses on cybersecurity, loT and cloud concepts, graphic design, coding, and global business. They also have on-site courses in Berlin and Munich on Cisco, as well as workshops, networks, job training, and conferences (which may lead to jobs and or paid internships). Laptops are also provided for the duration of the course if a participant does not have access to their own. They also offer on-site women courses in Berlin, which improves women’s’ tech skills, networks, internship opportunities, and potential employers.
Other courses include introduction to a computer, basic skills, building an online store, and introduction to cybersecurity. If those interested are not able to attend on-site courses (which last three months), they can access the free, self-paced Cisco courses on entrepreneurship, cybersecurity, networking, Linux, and C-programming. To participate in these courses, those interested can answer a questionnaire found on their website to be notified when registration for a course opens.
MENT Project offers an incubation and mentoring programme which gives support in the first steps of launching entrepreneurial projects. They also foster economic and social integration of migrants. At the end of the session, there is a final pitching section where entrepreneurs can showcase their businesses.
Anyone who is a migrant and/or refugee, with a motivated mindset, at least 18 years of age, and has a legal residency status can submit an application form online.
Spark provides higher education and entrepreneurship to empower youth. They have projects to help registered businesses (both new startups and existing). The increase the availability of sustainable job opportunities and improve economic outlooks in societies affected with conflict. They provide training services for start up entrepreneurs through their business start up academy, business plan competition, mentoring and coaching entrepreneur employment services, advisory board, certification, matchmaking, and loan guarantee funds. They recently held the Ignite 2018 conference, where Syrian entrepreneurs pitched their startups as the end of the Startup Roadshow.
Niuversity offers professional skill training in Arabic to help prepare young Arabs to build a better future. They provide e-learning to teach modern professional skills in Arabic. It allows participation during and after the lessons.They also provide jobs by teachers and assess business. The studies can be continued anywhere, anytime, and at any pace.
To participate in a course, those interested can register online for a purchased course, they will then receive an account where all their lectures are recorded and they can view all posts and assignments. They also have access to a professional learning group where the students can exchange their ideas regarding the course. The organization, founded by Syrian migrant entrepreneurs, recently won the second prize at the Berlin Newcomer Awards, organized by SINGA Business Lab in Germany.
SINGA Business Lab
SINGA Business Lab is an incubator that supports newcomer entrepreneurs on their business with a 5 month intensive program. They believe that the entrepreneurial ecosystem already present in Berlin will bring refugee entrepreneurs to their full potential. This program offers ideation and concept development, business skill training, entrepreneurial mentoring, networking and community, and legal and financial support. Last month, they organized and hosted the Berlin Newcomer Awards, offering €50.000 in cash prizes to newcomer startups. Entrepreneurs can sign up online to stay updated on participation in the next cohort of SINGA Business Lab.
Ideas in Motion
Ideas in Motion is the mindmaster behind Idego, which connects Rwandan entrepreneurs and experts to help them design their business, connecting to others to collaborate on a project for 1-6 months. To be eligible, the project must be posted a minimum of 2 months before its start date, the business must be a legal entity in Rwanda, the entrepreneur must provide a proper work space, and post a workload of 30-40 hours per week. Even though providing accomodation for the experts is not required, it is preferred, as the expert comes on their own money.
To work with an expert, an entrepreneur would fill out a project form describing their project, upload it, and have it checked by Idego. Then experts would apply to work on the project and the entrepreneur would choose their favorite, then receive their support on site.
TERN – The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network
TERN is an enterprise that empowers UK refugees to develop their own businesses. They support entrepreneurs in their early-stage ideation, business plans, and existing businesses build, grow, and scale up. They offer expert advice, mentorship, access to business networks and business finance. They provide three stages of business support: the introduction to business (through ICE Academy), specialist workshops, and individual support sessions to aid in specific business development.
To participate in an introduction to business course, those interested can apply to the ICE Academy. For other stages of business development, those interested can check out their page here.
Incubators for Immigrants
Incubators for Immigrants wants to help refugees build their own economic existence in the Netherlands. To do so, they provide knowledge, financial support, assistance in setting up a private company, and help in giving them a fast residence permit. They offer guidance in company establishment, marketing and business administration support, legal proceedings assistance, and social assistance. Anyone without Dutch Nationality and seeking asylum in the Netherlands can apply for the program here.
Five One Labs
Five One Labs is a startup incubator which assists refugees and entrepreneurs affected with conflict develop their businesses in the Middle East. They aim to empower individuals in rebuildings their lives, and in hand, contributing to their communities’ economic growth. They offer training that places emphasis on the lean startup methodology and financial planning, mentorship, and a diverse community. They do this through online training, workshops, panel discussions, pitch competitions, and hackathons. The organization recently opened their second Entrepreneur Academy in Iraq.
Many immigrants and refugees in the U.S. have college degrees or other advanced job training from their home countries. However, when these credentials aren’t accepted by domestic employers, they end up working in jobs far below their skill level. Upwardly Global is an organization dedicated to helping skilled immigrants work in jobs that suit their abilities. They work to connect employers with diverse talent, making them ideal for small businesses run by immigrants.
IRCO Africa House
The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) is involved in the needs of immigrants and refugees across a wide range of domains and issues. They provide social services, such as education and language services, but they also help to connect immigrants and refugees with skills and training that they need to succeed.
Femigrants exists at the intersection of immigration and feminism. Its goal is to provide a professional network for female immigrants who are entrepreneurs, business owners, or leaders in the STEM and business fields. They provide mentorship services, professional development and training, as well as special events intended to help diverse professionals succeed in the workplace.
SCORE is a resource partner of the Small Business Administration (SBA). In that role, they provide mentoring, workshops, and educational resources to entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, including immigrants and refugees.
Grants and Loans for Immigrants
Starting capital is a big part of building your own business from the ground up. You’ll need it to purchase equipment, hire your first employees, and pay business expenses until your revenue stream kicks in. Grants and loans through government organizations, nonprofits that support entrepreneurs, and lenders can help you get the starting capital that you need to get your business moving.
If you’re currently in school, or considering going back to school in order to further your education related specifically to your business goals, there are available to you as well.
The Microenterprise Development Program is a service provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. This program provides training and technical assistance to refugees, helping to provide them with the skills necessary to start and operate a business. These skills include management, accounting, and marketing. The program also provides micro-loans of up to $15,000.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) providers lender matching services. Through these services, the SBA connects entrepreneurs and small businesses to lenders who can meet their needs. The SBA also guarantees the loans, allowing lenders to invest in entrepreneurs more freely.
Refugee and Entrant Assistance provides financial assistance to refugees, for the purposes of improving self-sufficiency and early employment prospects. This program is available to refugees of Amerasian, Cuban, or Haitian descent, but also to victims of human trafficking.