For many workers, the recent economic downturn either forced or inspired them to finally strike out and start the business that they’ve always dreamed of. And that is especially true for many immigrants who may lack education, English skills, or the dependable transportation they need to succeed in the traditional — and still tough — job market.
Paula Asuncion of Portland, Oregon is one such newly-minted entrepreneur. Asuncion immigrated from Mexico decades ago, and since then, held a variety of low-wage, fast-food and farm jobs to support her six children — a burden that grew more difficult after her husband’s death.
But two years ago, she started participating in a program sponsored by Hacienda CDC (Community Development Corporation), a Portland nonprofit that provides housing, education, and economic advancement help for Latinos. Hacienda CDC sponsored a microbusiness incubator that trained Asuncion and others on the ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship.
Now, Asuncion runs her own catering business and was able to buy a home rather than sharing a crowded apartment with other families as she used to.
Janet Hamada, the executive director of Next Door Inc., another Portland-area nonprofit that offers business training told Gosia Wozniacka of the Associated Press, “The biggest concern among immigrants is having stable work. They come to us and say, ‘I want to start a taco stand. How do I do that?'”
People like Asuncion and those who want to open taco stands, for instance, form a major part of the American economy. According to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, microbusinesses with five or fewer workers employ 26 million Americans.
The nonprofit Adelante Mujeres in Forest Grove, Oregon, which offers a ten-week microbusiness class for Latinos, has seen a surge in interest from those who want to start their own businesses. Program director Eduardo Corona told Wozniacka,”Anti-immigration laws have led to people having a really hard time finding jobs, even on farms. Since they have to put food on the table, they’re starting to explore their abilities and thinking of opening a business.”
Interestingly, numerous studies have shown that immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to start their own businesses. One report found that more than half of Silicon Valley tech start-ups were founded by immigrants.
And now with the help of these increasingly popular nonprofit business incubators for low-income people, we’re likely to see even more successful immigrant entrepreneurs in every sector, from tacos to technology.