Skip to content

Immigrant Entrepreneurs Take Us To School

I’m impressed by immigrants that start new businesses.

Specifically, I’m referring to those businesses in the grittier parts of town. For example, in the C-grade strip malls and the older warehouse districts. The startups might be a bus service, a fitness company, or a human resource temp firm.

Seeing these efforts give me feelings of respect, appreciation and envy.


Because they represent the core engine that drives economic growth, life satisfaction and a service to others. According to the Kauffman Foundation, immigrant entrepreneurs are twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans.

Unfortunately, many of us third-generation Americans have lost touch with an immigrant entrepreneur’s persistent, self-starter work ethic. By growing up with American abundance, we’ve become complacent and self-oriented; we’ve lost our way, being superficially influenced by the glittery surfaces of media and life.

As a result, we’re less willing to do the gritty work required to start a business. This is to our own detriment. We become less knowledgeable, less secure and less adept at serving others.

Doing the unpleasant work (i.e. anything that you’re not yet good at, or not interested in) becomes the seeds of career independence and an entrepreneur’s fundamental advantage. By starting small, a business owner quickly gets to know all aspects of her business, from the ground up.

She sees how things connect and work. She tweaks. She fiddles. She finds what works and what doesn’t.

All with English as a second language and without a college degree.


Having few life and resource options, immigrant entrepreneurs get ultra-focused on income-generating essentials. Driven by practicality, they can be 100% focused on surviving, satisfying customers, covering expenses, and providing for family. They have little time for distractions.

As a result, their skills get sharper, faster.

The immigrant entrepreneur becomes alert to leveraging the limited resources around him. “How can I put food on the table?” “How do I sell this for more than what I paid for it?” “What does my customer really need?” What are my skills and where can I best apply them?” “Who can help me?”

Most immigrant business owners don’t take classes to help them answer these questions. They don’t subscribe to Fast Company or Entrepreneur Magazine.

They start companies because they have few options, and they need to survive.

There’s no “plan B.”

Many of us third-generation-and-beyond Americans, however, are distracted by too many options. Additionally, we’re too interested in keeping up with the Joneses.

Delaying gratification is no longer a part of our DNA. We’re embarrassed by driving an older car, living in a smaller space, sitting on used furniture, or wearing faded clothes.

Most immigrant business owners don’t have the luxury of worrying about what brand of shirt they wear, or how they compare to their peers, or whether their Isuzu pickup truck was built in 1992. But they benefit by becoming smarter, purpose-driven and happier.

By seeking to survive, they become sharp negotiators; they spend only what they can afford; and they buy used equipment instead of new. They squeeze their families into small spaces.

Before long, they discover that they have a sustainable business, more time to give in other ways, and an enduring satisfaction that most don’t experience.

So what can we learn from all this?

Investing in your own business has real, lasting benefits when you have a clear goal and when you escape your comfort zone.

So, please consider this, my dear aspiring entrepreneur: let go of trying to keep up with the Joneses. You can sacrifice more than you think to reach career independence. Way more.

Get gutsy. Jump in.

Identify a startup that fits you. Invest in yourself, your learning, and your life experiences; not a nicer pair of shoes or a bigger apartment.

Before you know it, your confidence will increase, and you’ll be on your way to a more purpose-driven life.

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

Click Here

Leave a Comment