By Lydia Warren
PUBLISHED: 13:56 EST, 14 June 2012 | UPDATED: 14:25 EST, 14 June 2012
Twenty-nine per cent of immigrant-run businesses are owned by women compared to 26 per cent of U.S. businesses, research by the Institute of Fiscal Policy found.
The study also revealed that immigrants account for 18 per cent of business owners across the country, while making up just 13 per cent of the entire population.
Experts have put this success down to the determination possessed by people who have faced hurdles to get into the country, as well as the types of businesses they start up.
And immigrant business owners have said they are simply making the most of the opportunities on offer in the U.S.
‘I am not sure people are aware of how big and growing a role immigrants are playing as business owners,’ David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the research told the New York Daily News.
‘Immigrants are expanding the economy,’ he added, pointing out that immigrants are also employing millions of workers.
They were responsible for 538,551 new small businesses during the past two decades, or about one-third of the total created in that period, the organisation found.
Since 2007, small businesses owned by immigrants have employed 4.7 million people and made $776 billion in revenues.
Immigrants appear to be setting up some types of business more than others. They make up a fifth of business owners in computer systems design.
Many are also running businesses on the high street: immigrants make up 37 per cent of restaurant owners, 49 per cent of grocery store owners, and more than half of people who own laundry and dry cleaners.
In addition, 65 per cent of taxi firms are owned by someone born oversees.
‘Immigrants are playing a particularly important role in the kinds of businesses that bring people into downtown areas and help enliven neighborhoods,’ Kallick added.
‘I don’t think immigrants are ‘super-entrepreneurs’, but I do see that immigrants are playing an important and growing role across the American landscape.’
WHAT DID THE STUDY FIND?
- Of the 4.9 million small-business owners in the country, 900,000 are immigrants
- Immigrants account for 18% of business owners but just 13% of the population
- Employ 4.7 million workers
- Immigrants account for: 65% of taxi service firms; 54% of laundry owners; 49% of grocery store owners; 43%t of hotel and motel owners; 37% of restaurant owners
- Immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Southern Europe are more likely to own business: 16% of Greek work force in the US own a business
- 58% of immigrant small business owners do not have a degree
- 29% of immigrant businesses owned by women, compared to 26% of U.S. businesses
- Foreign-born white and Asian women are particularly likely to be small business owners
Yet the study also found a staggering 58 per cent of immigrant business owners do not have a college degree.
There are also regional patterns; people from the Mediterranean and Middle East are more likely to own a small business compared to other immigrants.
The study found that a staggering 16 per cent of workers born in Greece and now living in the U.S. own a business compared to just one per cent of the Mexican immigrants who own a small business.
Mike Temali, president of the Neighborhood Development Center in St Paul, told the Minnesota Star Tribune that the characteristics of immigrants make them likely to own a business.
‘On the asset side, they’ve already proven their entrepreneurialism by immigrating, either because they have to as refugees or because they want to for schooling or economic opportunity,’ he said.
‘They, by definition, have gone through incredible hurdles and processes and delays to land here.
‘But then the barriers they face when they land here – like languages – really prevents them from getting onto a career ladder.’
Gigi Asres, who moved from Ethiopia and opened Gigi’s Braid Factory in Minneapolis two years ago, said she was not surprised by the study’s findings.
‘We come to America and we see everything’s open to us,’ she said. ‘So we try everything.’
AN IMMIGRANT SUCCESS STORY: LOWELL HAWTHORNE
In 1981, a 21-year-old Lowell Hawthorne left his parents in Jamaica to join some of his siblings in the Bronx, New York.
He worked as an accountant for the New York City Police Department for nearly 10 years before he came up with his winning business idea: a Jamaican restaurant for New York’s Jamaican population.
When he was denied a bank loan, he and his siblings mortgaged their homes, Hawthorne raised $100,000 and opened the first Golden Krust eatery in the Bronx in 1989.
Taking tips from his father – a baker in Jamaica – the Hawthornes sold traditional Jamaican breads, buns and pastries, and their signature spicy Jamaican meat patties.
The chain now has 120 restaurants, 1,600 employees and annual sales of $100 million, the New York Daily News reported.
Hawthorne has just written a memoir entitled The Baker’s Son.
‘Living in the United States, there are tremendous opportunities if one wants to work hard,’ Hawthorne told the Daily News. ‘We saw there was opportunity, we ran with it and we never stopped.’