DIY: Immigrant Enrepreneurs are Doing it for Themselves

North York Community House

Year: 2013

This report is a result of research conducted in partnership with Public Interest on how to support the entrepreneurial activity of immigrants living in the City of Toronto.

Results of this study show that more immigrants to Toronto are starting their own small businesses for many reasons, including as a response to an unfavourable job market, to supplement a low-income, and to work flexibly according to their own schedule. Immigrant entrepreneurs are a highly diverse group with a wide range of skills and experience, and those who provide services in this area must be able to recognize and support their individual needs.

“We received a number of requests from many entrepreneurs for support,” says Shelley Zuckerman, Executive Director at North York Community House. “We wanted to better understand their needs and create some positive models that will help them in creating successful small businesses.”

The majority of immigrant entrepreneurs interviewed indicated that they needed support in starting their business, from developing business skills to securing resources. However, the findings reveal that support from family and mentors is often able to make up for a lack of business experience and assets. Strong networks are crucial, and service providers must be aware that they can play a key role in facilitating these opportunities in order to maximize immigrant entrepreneurs’ chances for success.

The findings are based on a literature review and interviews conducted with 100 immigrant owners of small businesses in Toronto. This study was funded by the Metcalf Foundation and was done in partnership with Public Interest. NYCH established an advisory roundtable of service providers who support immigrant entrepreneurs to provide input to the project.

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