The American Dream of small-business ownership is alive and well, and the fastest-growing group of people making that dream a reality are immigrants. Though they make up only 13.5 percent of the U.S.. population, immigrant entrepreneurs now account for 27.5 percent of all new entrepreneurs in America. That’s up from 13.3 percent just a decade ago. Not only that, but immigrants are much more likely to become entrepreneurs than native-born Americans, with 0.53 percent rate of entrepreneurship for immigrants against only a 0.29 percent rate for natives.
As a franchise business consultant, I hear from lots of these immigrant entrepreneurs who are choosing their path to small-business ownership through franchising. The franchise industry has been on a winning streak for years and 2017 is expected to be one of the strongest yet. The International Franchise Association predicts growth of 5.2 percent in nominal dollars in 2017, accounting for $426 billion.
Franchising continues to be popular for budding entrepreneurs who prefer having a proven model of success, established brand equity and support systems in place to help their business grow. For immigrants looking for their piece of the American Dream through small-business ownership, franchises provide even more value.
Franchising makes complicated circumstances simpler.
Macdonald and Linda Vasnani came to the United States in the 1990s as he was launching a shipping business in his home country of Ghana. Having recently attended a Ghanaian festival in Chicago, he saw opportunity to expand his business to Aurora, Illinois, to serve the more than 200,000 Ghanaians residing in the area.
However, setting up a business in America had a different set of challenges than what he was used to in Africa.
“Compliance was a big issue for us,” MacDonald said, “There were so many things for us to learn about doing business in America and we had to take that all on ourselves.”
His shipping business still thrives today, but after years of learning the American way, along with dealing with the challenges of owning a business in Africa, the Vasnani’s were ready for something less taxing. They decided to purchase a Complete Nutrition franchise that not only had a proven model and support system in place, but could be owned and operated in 10–15 hours per week.
“In Africa, you have to stay on top of everything with your business at all times. I was working constantly,” MacDonald said. “As a franchisee, I just have to follow the system and rely on the support they have in place to succeed.”
Franchising delivers credibility and understanding.
Franz Budel spent decades working as an engineer in the United States, so he was plenty familiar with the American way of doing business. However, when he decided to go into business for himself at age 52, he chose the franchising route where he could get a head start with a well-established business process, implement his business knowledge, manual skill set and have a company name that customers trust. He selected Creative Colors International, a mobile franchise that specializes in the repair and reconditioning of leather, vinyl, fabric, plastic and carpeting in the automotive, furniture, commercial and residential markets.
“In Venezuela, craftsmanship is a traditional means of employment, so I definitely wanted something that identified with my heritage,” Budel said. “But more than that, I wanted my company to have a brand that people were comfortable with. I think sometimes people can be a bit wary of doing business with immigrant owners and this brand will allow me to overcome this concern.”
Franchising created permanence for a family.
Alan and Naila Matheson came to the United States in 2004 from the United Kingdom. After just over a decade in America, they decided they not only wanted to become American citizens, but live the American dream as small-business owners.
“We love America and I wasn’t willing to risk uprooting my family for another international move -- which was always a possibility in my line of work,” Alan said. “Plus, our kids were getting older and I really wanted something that not only allowed me to establish a base for the family, but give us something that we could all grow together.”
In 2015, Alan and Naila decided to open a City Wide building maintenance franchise in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The franchise not only offered the family stability, but also gave them a path for business legacy.
“The only business I would have started up myself would have been a consulting outfit, but that would have involved extensive travel, would have excluded my family and wouldn’t have been as easily transferable to my children. It’s not just our source of income, it’s our dinner conversation that we can all enjoy,” Alan said.