The world is an ever-evolving, ever-changing place. Never before have we as a species seen such interconnectedness among nations and groups of people. We have all overcome the walls and barriers between our nations to find our place in this world. With such a diverse array of individuals spread across this planet, nations can no longer trap themselves within a jingoistic mentality and must explore and actively seek out robust global talent.
The bedrock of all economies is created by small businesses. As of 2015, the total number of registered employer businesses in Canada amounted to 1.17 million. From this number, 1.14 million were small businesses—comprising 97.9% of all employer businesses in Canada. Breaking the statistics down even further, we notice that a whopping 10.5 million Canadians (90.3% of the private sector workforce) worked for small businesses—contributing a national average of 30% to Canada’s GDP.
Understanding these statistics makes one truly appreciate how important the entrepreneurial environment is to a country. Governments must not only emphasize and promote this culture to its citizens but also take advantage of global talent and set up support infrastructures. Immigrant entrepreneurship is vital for the Canadian economy; statistics show that 17.5% of immigrants aged 18 to 69 were self-employed compared with 14.4% of the Canadian-born population. Despite a strong immigrant entrepreneurial presence, there are many obstacles and challenges new immigrants face in their host country. Having said that, let us dive in and discuss some of the issues faced by entrepreneurial immigrants.
It is no surprise that we are starting the list off by discussing language barriers—the most obvious challenge faced by not only entrepreneurs but all immigrants. The ability to communicate effectively affects all areas of life—everything from buying groceries to business interviews and even casual chitchat can become a struggle for those who do not yet have a sufficient grasp of the host language. Many immigrants did not come here with strongly developed English skills; thick accents and broken English leave many individuals feeling unconfident in expressing themselves—an issue I used to face. Fortunately, a newcomer can now find a myriad of resources which can help them settle well in Canada, including language classes and services. Along with the government’s strong emphasis on immigrant aid, a newcomer is just one Google search away from any answer they may be looking for.
One of the biggest problems immigrants face is access to capital. Many are unfamiliar with credit rules, and many do not even have credit histories. Even asking friends and families for investments or loan cosigning is often not a viable option. According to a study by Ryerson University, Canadian-born entrepreneurs who received funding were more than twice as likely to have received government funding as compared to immigrant entrepreneurs (54% vs 23%). In a study of recent immigrants in Canada, it was found that a lack of business knowledge and being unable to hire skilled employees due to lack of finances are among the challenges immigrant entrepreneurs face.
When beginning a venture, immigrant entrepreneurs are prone to limited funding due to the lack of knowledge of resources. Bank loans are one of the most common methods of business financing. However, their extensive requirements often limit newcomers who have had little experience in and exposure to Canada. The unfamiliarity immigrants in Canada face in regards to procedures and customs greatly amplify the difficulties which lie in starting a business.
In such a globalized world, it is critical to understand different cultures when conducting business. Understanding etiquette, language barriers, and business mannerisms can greatly aid one in navigating the global business environment; even slight changes in body language and verbal tone can drastically affect the way someone perceives you. However, many older immigrants from culturally homogeneous nations tend to have a difficult time adjusting to a new country. Their habits and social norms have shaped their entire life and can keep them from fully engaging with a new society. Despite Canada being a very progressive and accepting nation, those without sufficient knowledge of western culture will find starting a venture to be considerably more difficult.
Despite the difficulties facing some immigrant entrepreneurs, they are thriving here in Canada. The Canadian government has greatly modified its immigration policies over the years, and there is now a very strong focus on attracting talented and motivated entrepreneurs who are operating in high-growth markets. Initiatives like the Start-Up Visa and Express Entry Programs are testaments to the shift in Canadian perspectives. With strong support infrastructures and an abundance of resources, things are looking up for future immigrant entrepreneurs.