Entrepreneurship increasingly attractive to newcomers

posted on March 23, 2016



On March 22, TRIEC, through its Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) program, organized an information and networking event, hosted by MaRS Discovery District, to support immigrants seeking to become entrepreneurs. The event, ‘Newcomer Start-ups: Building a successful business,’ featured four successful immigrant entrepreneurs and share information on programs, services and supports to help immigrants start their business.

“Immigrants in the GTA are increasingly turning to entrepreneurship as a career option, both by choice and as an alternative when they are struggling to find meaningful employment,” says Margaret Eaton, Executive Director, TRIEC. “Entrepreneurship is not without its own set of challenges, but immigrant entrepreneurs are key contributors to the economy, including job creators, and provide valuable links to international markets.”

Immigrant entrepreneurs bring tremendous value to the GTA and to Canada in many different ways. “As an example, 27% of the start-ups that we work with have all foreign-born founders and another 25% have both Canadian and foreign-born founders,” says Usha Srinivasan, Vice President, Learning and Insights at MaRS Discovery District. “These entrepreneurs typically have high technical knowledge and we support them in launching their businesses with specific programming and scale their business with advice and capital.”

While immigrant entrepreneurship can be beneficial for both the individual and the broader economy, a 2011 report from the Metcalf Foundation and Maytree found that new Canadians face additional barriers to starting a business not faced by Canadian-born residents and often immigrants require different and/or additional support to be successful.

A range of resources and supports are available for entrepreneurs including some specifically geared towards immigrants. These supports cover a wide range of topics and can help immigrants with accessing financing, learning about Canadian business culture and building local connections and networks.

“Scotiabank is proud of our long history of support for newcomers in Canada through our StartRight and StartRight for business programs and is delighted to be a sponsor of the Professional Immigrant Networks Program,” said John Roberts, Vice President, Small Business Banking at Scotiabank. “It is our pleasure to participate in this important event with TRIEC and to provide immigrant entrepreneurs with access to the financial tools and advice that they need to start their businesses in Canada.”

While many supports exist, given the diverse needs of entrepreneurs, there is still room for more of these types of programs to be made available. In addition, a 2014 report from the Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto on immigrant small business owners found that most had little awareness of the programs and services available to support self-employment and small business start-up. It was these factors that led to tonight’s event.

“The event partners represent an amazing range of programs and services that immigrant entrepreneurs can access,” says Eaton. “Our hope is that more immigrants will access these resources and that this will lead to increased success for them and a greater impact for our region.”

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