Immigrant Entrepreneurs

America is world-renowned for its entrepreneurial business spirit, and this spirit is fueled in large part by immigrants. In every economic census since 1880, immigrants are more likely to be self-employed than the native-born population. While some of these immigrant entrepreneurs were highly educated, many were not. In fact, the only characteristics they share are the courage to leave their home countries and the drive and determination to start a new life in the United States.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards


The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards Dinner

The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards


To call attention to the critical contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts, The Immigrant Learning Center hosts The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards Dinner each spring.

Winners and nominees are honored in four categories representing the breadth of their contributions: Business Growth, Neighborhood Business, High-Tech Business and Life Science Business.

Nominations are currently being accepted for The 2018 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards Dinner on May 3, 2018. Learn more…


Other Entrepreneur Award Programs

It’s not just Massachusetts. Immigrant entrepreneurs are making a big splash around the world, but there are still very few opportunities to celebrate them.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

Here is a tribute to 70 immigrant entrepreneurs who founded some of today’s most influential brands, midsize businesses that are the engines of regional economies and not-for-profits that enhance the lives of many Americans.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs in the News

Immigrant Entrepreneur Interviews

Immigrant entrepreneurs bring with them a determination and creativity that reinvigorate declining communities, create jobs for Americans and keep the U.S. on the cutting edge of innovation. While much is heard of immigrant businesses, The ILC Public Education Institute gives voice to the entrepreneurs and innovators who help to strengthen America’s economy like immigrants before them.

Research on Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Research on immigrant entrepreneurs consistently shows tremendous economic benefits across the country and across the economic spectrum. Here is a sample of some of the most recent and compelling studies.


Immigrant Founders of the 2017 Fortune 500

Center for American Entrepreneurship, December 2017

The Center for American Entrepreneurship has analyzed the 2017 Fortune 500 list and found 43 percent were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. Further, they discovered that first- or second-generation immigrant founders accounted for 52 percent of the top 25 firms and 57 percent of the top 35 firms.


Immigrants Play a Disproportionate Role in American Entrepreneurship

Harvard Business Review, October 2016

This study takes a comprehensive view of U.S. immigrant entrepreneurship data from 1995 to 2008 and analyzes a spectrum of companies from “Main Street” businesses to VC-backed Silicon Valley firms.


Kauffman Compilation: Research on Immigration and Entrepreneurship

Kaufman Foundation, October 2016

The Kauffman Foundation has long championed immigrant entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the American economy. This compilation highlights a range of Kauffman resources that discuss the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs and the policy ideas that could further those contributions.


The Arrival of the Immigrant Entrepreneur

U.S. Small Business Administration, October 2016

Over the last 20 years, the role of immigrant entrepreneurs has grown.This report shows that the growth was caused by three changes: an increase in the size of the population born abroad, an increase in self-employment among those born abroad, and a decrease in self-employment overall.


Immigrants and Billion Dollar Startups

National Foundation for American Policy, March 2016

Immigrants play a key role in creating new, fast-growing companies, as evidenced by the prevalence of foreign-born founders and key personnel in the nation’s leading privately-held companies. This research finds that immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies.


Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Welcoming Cities: Lessons from Chicago, Dayton, and Nashville

American Immigration Council, February 2016

The efforts of three geographically diverse cities that have created more welcoming environments for immigrants and implemented initiatives that promote immigrant entrepreneurship and innovation in their communities, are detailed in this report.

Resources for Immigrant Entrepreneurs


ILC English for Entrepreneurs Class

The Immigrant Learning Center Entrepreneur Class helps students practice dialogue and improve English grammar while learning to write a business plan and the basics of starting a business.


Global Entrepreneur In Residence

Global EIR partners with universities to connect entrepreneurs with visas and allow them to grow their companies locally through a service commitment to the local community.


StreetWise ‘MBA’

This program from Interise provides small business owners with the business knowledge, management know-how, and the networks needed to grow established small businesses.


Center for Women and Enterprise

Offers training and support for starting and growing businesses in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont.


NYC Immigrant Business Initiative

The New York City Department of Small Business Services offers business courses and resources to address specific needs of entrepreneurs in immigrant communities.

Resources About Immigrant Entrepreneurs


Welcoming America Seeds of Growth

A guide to help communities harness the potential of immigrant entrepreneurs to spur economic growth and job creation


The Immigrant Entrepreneur

Podcast broadcast every other Thursday with interviews of and about immigrant entrepreneurs


Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present

Website that explores the entrepreneurial and economic capacity of immigrants by investigating the German-American example in the United States


Immigrant Entrepreneurs from the Story Exchange

Videos and profiles of women immigrants who have found economic opportunity through business ownership


Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Changing Cultures & Economies

A newsletter from Nina Roberts about and for immigrant entrepreneurs including stories, tips and information