“The ‘American Dream’ has long lured immigrants, who have always used the opportunities of our capitalist system to start their own small businesses. Immigrants own more than 50 percent of all laundromats and drycleaners, more than a third of all restaurants and about 20 percent of computer companies.” – Rohit Arora, co-founder and CEO of Biz2Credit
In recent years, and especially leading up to and since last November’s election, we’ve all been hearing, seeing and reading a lot about immigration policy in the United States – much of it not so positive.
Yet, most of us are the children of immigrants. And immigration has been one of the true strengths of this country since the very beginning.
This is especially true when it comes to business ownership and entrepreneurship. For example, Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, is an immigrant. Elon Musk of Tesla fame is also an immigrant. And Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, is an immigrant as well. Furthermore, many of the small businesses in your neighborhood are likely owned and operated by immigrants.
By and large, immigrants are not only solid citizens, but they are also powerful drivers of economic activity in this country. According to a report from the National Foundation for American Policy, “among the billion dollar startup companies, immigrant founders have created an average of approximately 760 jobs per company in the United States.”
The fact that immigrants are – and always have been – entrepreneurial is really no secret. However, what still remains relatively unknown is the extent of that entrepreneurial activity. It is both impressive and extensive.
After all, consider the following:
• More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or their children.
• More than half of America’s startup companies valued at more than $1 billion were started by immigrants.
• Immigrants are twice as likely to start a new business as someone born in the U.S.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, “immigrants have a disproportionate presence in the entrepreneurial community – i.e., immigrants make up a larger share of entrepreneurs than they make of the population.”
Why is that?
For starters, immigrants are risk-takers. Imagine leaving your home, your language, your friends, your family – your life – and starting over in a new country; to do so requires courage, intelligence, initiative and, of course, risk-tolerance. These are all traits that an entrepreneur must exude – but that last one is especially desirable if one is planning to start both a new life and a new business venture.
Immigrants understand how to start something from nothing. What does it take to launch a successful business? Clearly, an idea is needed – as are brains and definitely a work ethic. But, especially in the beginning, it requires entrepreneurs to have a vision, to be able to see things that others cannot.
Furthermore, immigrants and entrepreneurs both share two important beliefs.
First of all, they believe in themselves. Immigration and entrepreneurship both necessitate that the individuals involved believe there is something better out there and that, if they work hard and follow their vision, they will be able to reach their goal – be it a new life in a new country, or a new life within their own business.
Secondly, and critically, immigrants and entrepreneurs alike both believe in the United States.
For generations, people across the globe have seen the U.S. in the same way that President Ronald Reagan once described it – “a shining city upon a hill.” It’s a place where dreams come true, a place that rewards hard work and initiative, and a place where immigrants have the ability to give themselves and their children a better life and greater opportunity.
Today’s immigrant entrepreneurs believe the very same values. In far too many places around this world, creating a business holds no allure. “Crony capitalism” and political corruption can make starting a business nearly impossible in certain countries.
But that’s not the case here. Immigrant entrepreneurs know this – and they’re willing to bet their lives and future on it. And, clearly, the U.S. economy – not to mention the self-service laundry industry – is healthier because of these savvy businesspeople.