Recently, I stumbled upon the following article on the web “Immigrants Play a Disproportionate Role in American Entrepreneurship” and made me think about my immigrant entrepreneur story. Before I jump into my entrepreneurship journey in the U.S., let me share some data from the article I read:
“1. Immigrants constitute 15% of the general U.S. workforce, but they account for around a quarter of U.S. entrepreneurs (which we define as the top three initial earners in a new business). That is comparable to what we see in innovation and patent filings, where immigrants also account for about a quarter of U.S. inventors.
2. Immigrant founders launch firms that are smaller than native-founded firms. The average initial employment for firms founded by immigrants exclusively is 4.4 workers, compared to 7.0 workers for firms launched exclusively by natives. When both types of founders are present (i.e., “mixed founder team”), the average is 16.9 workers. (Source: https://hbr.org/2016/10/immigrants-play-a-disproportionate-role-in-american-entrepreneurship.)”
According to the “State of Latino Entrepreneurship 2016” report, scaled firms in the Hispanic business community are more likely to have immigrant and highly educated owners.
“Owners of scaled firms are more likely to report being immigrants and having at least a four-year college degree. Specifically, 40-50 percent of larger firms – high-revenue and high-employee firms – are immigrant-owned, compared to only one-third of smaller firms. Two-thirds of owners of firms scaled in size report having a college degree, compared to only half of owners of smaller firms. When comparing firms with and without increasing employee count levels, the differences are less pronounced but still evident. While the reasons behind the overrepresentation of immigrants, in particular, are unclear, a clear implication is that Latino immigrant entrepreneurs are having a positive effect on the U.S. economy through job and revenue creation. (Source: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/sites/gsb/files/publication-pdf/report-slei-state-latino-entrepreneurship-2016_0.pdf)”.
The moment I knew I was going to stay in San Diego for good, I started to explore different business opportunities. For those who don’t know, I was born and raised in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. I have a Bachelor’s in Economics and a Master’s in Marketing. The reason why I mention that is because my education has helped me to compete at a high level in San Diego since day one.
Back in 2006, I thought about opening a restaurant, starting an import/export business or a marketing consulting firm for companies interested in penetrating the Mexican market. Those were some of the multiple ideas I had.
However, we all know how destiny sometimes works in very mysterious ways. I was waiting for my restaurant to sell so I could use that money to invest in my first business opportunity in San Diego. While I was waiting for that to happen, I started to look for a full-time job, and that’s how I ended up with a market research analyst position at Kyocera Wireless. That was the time when I joined the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SDCHCC).
My experience was so negative with the SDCHCC that some force inside me drove me to take action to do something better. It was 2008 when I launched the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce (HISCEC).
All my business ideas changed after my market research study showed me that Hispanic-owned businesses were underperforming in the marketplace and that there wasn’t a serious organization in town to help out with that, so I ended up concentrating all of my efforts towards HISCEC from 2008 to 2010. I didn’t have a clue back then about how I was going to make a living out of that, but deeply in my heart, I knew I had to do that. It was the right thing to do.
I made several mistakes in the process. The first major mistake was choosing the legal structure of the organization and then the business model. I had to learn with time what was the best for me, for HISCEC and the stakeholders.
In 2010, we hosted a Hispanic Business Expo at the San Diego Convention Center. An event that cost us over $50K when the organization wasn’t making any money but we needed to set a record straight, that we were in business for good.
Maybe because I was an immigrant, with little English proficiency and zero knowledge of the community politics, I was never afraid of making moves. I challenged the status quo since day one. It was tough in the beginning to get members, sponsors, etc. because no one knew anything about me or the organization. But hard work, dedication, and results have positioned HISCEC as the largest Hispanic business association in San Diego County.
I managed to overcome all the challenges to get to the stage where we currently are with HISCEC.
It’s not easy for immigrant entrepreneurs to succeed in the marketplace but we live in the best country for entrepreneurs with big dreams. The sky is the limit in America. Numbers don’t lie!
My story is not over yet. I feel like is just starting. Best is yet to come! We are now working to get 4,000 members by November 2018. Follow our journey using hashtag #4000by2018.
If you are an immigrant entrepreneur, let’s connect. There are always opportunities to learn from the experiences of others. And if my network of contacts helps you in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask for some connections.
Cheers to your success,