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The Importance of Migrant Entrepreneurship to Australia

Migrant entrepreneurship in Australia is granting us more diversity and innovation in our entrepreneurial ecosystems, from social enterprise to tech. It’s not only gifting Australia with new cultures, diverse languages, food and different ways of life, migrant entrepreneurs continue to increase opportunities for local residents. The 2018 CGU Migrant Small Business Report states that of the 2 million+ small businesses operating in Australia, at least 620,000 (approximately one third) of them are owned by migrants. Observing current growth trends, it’s predictable that these businesses could create up to 200,000 jobs in the next five to ten years. If this wasn’t enough already, a study conducted by the Harvard Business review demonstrated how diverse workforces increased the revenue of a companies. Amazing!

One of many reasons for a migrant entrepreneur’s success is that they commonly possess resilience, grit and perseverance. Establishing a business in a foreign context is hard work. In spite of this, it often spurs the determination and creativity of these entrepreneurs to push forward when faced with obstacles.

To continue to foster migrant entrepreneurship, South Australia has become the best state to start, as the government recently implemented its pilot Entrepreneurship Visa program for the next four years. Unlike the past Entrepreneurship Visa which required applicants to have at least $200,000 before applying, this Visa allows entrepreneurial applicants to start in Australia, supporting them in connecting with local incubators and accelerators. A national roll-out of the plan is set for 2019 with the Australian Government aiming to see it across the country. Migrant entrepreneurs who are successful will then have the option of applying for permanent residency.

Some notable incubators and accelerators supporting migrant entrepreneurship in Australia are Catalysr and YGAP. Co-founder of Catalysr and social entrepreneur, Usman Iftikhar, studied mechanical engineering in Pakistan before moving to Australia in 2013. On encountering his own challenges in getting a job when arriving, he started Catalysr to help others get the support they need.

Catalysr provides migrapreneurs with the mentoring skills and connections to get their start up off the ground. “By putting two and two together, we were able to think about an accelerator program as a solution to this problem of unemployment and underemployment of refugees and migrants in Australia,” says Iftikhar.

Similarly, YGAP launched its own First Gens Accelerator Program in 2017 to support the development of migrant entrepreneurs across the country building social enterprises. LaunchVic granted YGAP, amongst 4 other initiatives supporting migrant entrepreneurship. CEO of LaunchVic, Dr Kate Cornick believes that, “The first thing we want people to have is an avenue to explore ideas and potentially build businesses. So we want to be able to provide these founders with education through the accelerator program. Now we’re realists, so we understand that not all of those founders will go on to build successful businesses straight away. But what we hope they learn is the skills to make them successful in the future.”

In more recent years, initiatives in Australia are breaking down accessibility barriers for migrant entrepreneurs to start their businesses and find work. Social enterprises like Scarf and Free to Feed train and employ migrants refugees to help them get work. Whilst it is still not an easy feat and there is more work to be done by government and non-profit sectors alike, the development is a positive one nonetheless.

If you want to support Australia’s generation of migrant entrepreneurs, look to support local small businesses in your area. Research the tech and social enterprises on the above incubators and accelerators and see how you can use their services or buy their products. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. As an individual, the more open minded and welcoming of diversity we are, the more we can build a stronger community and country taking action to support migrapreneurs.

Natalie Klenner breathes social impact. Through social enterprises eliminating youth homelessness to facilitating preventative mental health and emotional wellbeing workshops, Natalie believes in giving all young people opportunities to thrive. She’s also passionate about ideas that change the world. On a day off, she can be found in a kayak or doing a dance… somewhere.

Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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