Immigrant-owned businesses create jobs and contribute to the economy. They also pave the way for the owners in a country where employment opportunities may be limited for non-native residents. It takes courage and tenacity to come to a country where the culture and language are challenging and create business opportunities in an unfamiliar environment.
Given this difficulty, it may be a surprise that immigrants make up 18% of small business owners in the United States despite being just 13% of the U.S. population. The immigrant entrepreneurial spirit often helps revive stagnant communities and speaks loudly to the accomplishments, grit, and determination they bring to American communities.
According to New American Economy, immigrants are two times more likely to start a new business in the United States than native-born citizens. More than 2.1 million immigrant entrepreneurs with less than a college degree have helped towns and cities all across the United States prosper.
If your goal is to own a business, here are a few resources and guides to help you achieve your business goals.
Business Ownership Basics
Successful business owners need to understand the basics of owning a business, such as registering their business name with the state, choosing a business structure, insurance and liability coverage, tax guidelines, and more.
If you’re a new resident of our home state of Oklahoma, the state’s low cost of living and low tax rates offer excellent opportunities and resources for immigrant small business owners.
Created in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Oklahoma SCORE is a program supported by local professionals, executives, and business owners to help new business owners navigate the path of owning a business.
Oklahoma SCORE offers mentorship programs, workshops, courses, and resources to help you build a business plan, secure funding, and strategies to help create a sustainable business model.
U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)
Dedicated to the development of small businesses, the SBA offers numerous resources, grants, and workshops. When you’re in the early stages of planning your business venture, the SBA provides a solid overview of how to structure your business.
As a business owner, your business structure helps determine how to file your taxes, raise capital, and document the required documentation. Learn more about your options in the link below.
Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
The SBDC provides no-cost, confidential consulting to help Oklahoma’s businesses start, sustain, or expand. Their core services include:
- One-on-one, confidential, free, and long-term technical assistance.
- Group training focused on subjects of interest to small businesses and presented by SBDC staff and private sector professionals.
- Market research tailored to the client’s needs.
Oklahoma Ventures Forum (OVF)
Oklahoma Ventures Forum introduces investors, mentors, and support organizations to entrepreneurs and provides collaborative venues for sharing ideas. Members of the OVF get access to networking events, free business plan reviews, and discounts off of a business plan, marketing plan, crisis communication protocol, or branding package.
Acquiring Business Capital
To start a business, funds are needed for state and federal registrations and permits and other considerations such as the storefront location, merchandise, equipment, and more. When building capital, some immigrant entrepreneurs find that biases and language barriers can present various challenges.
Fortunately, many sources, such as grants, loans, crowdfunding, and investors, recognize the unique situations of immigrant business owners and provide options to help raise the capital needed to get your business off the ground.
U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)
The SBA supports small businesses in many ways, including loans with some of the lowest rates and most extended repayment terms available. In addition, the loans provide options for immigrants with the requirement that non-citizen borrowers must be within the country lawfully with what the SBA calls “an appropriate work visa” with a current date.
Several additional qualifications for immigrant business owners must be met before applying for SBA funding, which can be quite lengthy. However, the resources and connections that SBA can provide are invaluable to small business owners.
In partnership with Immigrants Rising, Venturize gives you the unbiased information you need to learn about small business lending, become loan-ready, and prepare for the borrowing process. Their goal is to help you sort through your options and find a lending partner that best suits your financial needs and business goals.
Fundera helps small business owners make better financial decisions. They help walk you through many funding options such as term loans, business lines of credit, equipment financing, small business grants, and more.
Permanent residents of the United States and other countries can use platforms like Kickstarter to crowdfund their business initiatives. Crowdfunding is the practice of raising funds from many individuals to launch a new business venture. Crowdfunding has created the opportunity for entrepreneurs to raise hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars from anyone with money to invest.
One Way Ventures
One Way Ventures’ mission is to “fund exceptional immigrant founders building high-impact global companies.” One Way Ventures invests in immigrant tech founders by offering seed-stage funding in exchange for equity within the startup company. Seed capital is often the first step for startups to become established businesses.
One Way Ventures is founded by immigrant entrepreneurs and understands the challenges of launching a company as an immigrant, but they also recognize that immigrant founders have a competitive advantage to growing impactful global reaching companies.
Many immigrant business owners have found success through franchising. A franchise is a business in which the owner licenses its operations and products and branding in exchange for a franchise fee. Examples of popular U.S. franchises include McDonald’s, 7-11 Convenience Stores, UPS Stores, and Dominos.
Franchises offer business opportunities that include established marketing, legal, HR, and compliance resources and help to reduce some of the risks associated with startup businesses.
Entrepreneur.com offers a list of growing franchises in the United States and the estimated initial startup costs to invest in owning your own franchise. Take a short quiz to find out which franchise can best fit your needs and location.
Franchise Opportunities offers several different methods for you to find the best franchise for you. You can search based on state, industry, or even investment cost. Before assuming you don’t have the capital necessary to purchase your own franchise, you might want to check out the low-cost franchises page.
Franchise Gator is an online resource with both available opportunities listed and articles and resources for new and experienced franchisees.
Essential Business Owner Tips for Immigrants
Starting a business in the United States can be an overwhelming prospect for immigrant entrepreneurs. There’s a lot to learn about state and federal regulations, tax requirements, how your visa status affects your business and the nuances of hiring employees. Understanding American culture also plays a hand in the success of your business. This list of tips provides a starting point to set yourself up for business success in the United States.
- Consider outsourcing tasks like accounting and tax preparation.
Complex tasks like accounting and tax filing require understanding American tax systems, regulations, and terminology that those new to the United States may be unfamiliar with. As a result, you may be able to save both time and money by outsourcing these tasks to qualified accountants and tax professionals, as well as identify tax write-offs and other incentives that your business may be eligible to receive.
- Work with an immigration lawyer to understand how your visa status affects your business.
While you aren’t required to be a U.S. citizen to own a business in the United States, certain visas provide you with more flexibility and advantages in your business pursuits. A reputable immigration lawyer can help you navigate the evolving immigration system and efficiently plot out the best path forward regarding your visa status and your future in the United States.
- Take advantage of free resources, courses, and training.
A common saying in the United States is, “Knowledge is Power.” The more you know about all aspects of your business, the better prepared you are to meet all the challenges of owning a business. Organizations like the SBA, Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and Oklahoma SCORE offer free resources like training, workshops, and courses to help you handle and understand the multiple roles you may play while starting your business.
Other educational resources that cover topics like hiring employees, running an online eCommerce store, advertising your business, building a social media presence can be found through websites such as:
Starting a business in the United States as an immigrant can pose unique challenges, but the benefits of owning a part of the American Dream can outweigh the difficulties. Fortunately, the United States has many resources available for individuals who have the entrepreneurial spirit to dream big and can rise to the challenge.
Looking for Immigration Help?
Stump & Associates is Oklahoma City’s most respected immigration law firm. With more than 30 years of experience, we know how to handle cases just like yours.