Immigrant Entrepreneurs Embrace Social Responsibility

 

There are more ways that immigrants enrich our country than we can count. We know that immigrants are highly entrepreneurial. We can quantify how many jobs are created by immigrant entrepreneurs and how much immigrants pay in taxes. We can even quantify innovation by counting patents, Nobel Prizes, etc. How do you quantify social responsibility?

Corporate Social Responsibility

The term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was coined in 1954 by an American economist named Howard Bowen, who is known as the “father of CSR.” It refers to a business model that involves, in the ordinary course of business, enhancing society and the environment, and avoiding negative impacts. More and more, both customers and employees are demanding it. According to Cone Communications, 87 percent of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, and 76 percent will refuse to do business with a company that has policies they dislike.

To showcase the contributions of immigrants, The Immigrant Learning Center hosts the annual Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards. If this year’s nominees are any indication, immigrant business owners have fully embraced Corporate Social Responsibility. Here are a few examples:

Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Corporate Social Responsibility

Immigrant Entrepreneur Joseph NgaruiyaJoseph Ngaruiya grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. His parents run businesses and own real estate investments in both Kenya and the United States. He started his career as a licensed practical nurse and discovered he loves working with older patients. In Kenyan culture, the elderly are highly respected and sought out for advice. His entrepreneurial background and his compassion for the elderly led him to create A Better Life Homecare in 2014. The company has grown to serve about 300 elderly and chronically ill people in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, many who are dependent on Social Security and Medicare. A Better Life ensures its clients receive the care they need at home with their families.

What really makes Joseph and his business special is his dedication to his staff and the communities they serve. Since his clients are often housing-insecure, Joseph and his team make a point to visit and volunteer in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Often, the team will go out of their way to help a community member with getting a haircut, cleaning their apartment or obtaining a set of clothes to wear to job interviews. Not only is it kind, it helps promote the company and builds trust. Although he is not a Spanish speaker, many of his team are, and the company is a founding member of Holyoke’s Spanish Caregivers Support Group, which trains Spanish-speaking medical professionals and personal caretakers for dementia patients. For Joseph, social responsibility is part of the American Dream. In accepting the 2019 Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Award for Business Growth, Joseph said, “My goal and hope is to be a stepping stone for other immigrants, to support them and to uplift them because I believe in America anything is possible.”

Social Entrepreneurship

For some people, it is not enough to incorporate social responsibility into their business plans. These Social Entrepreneurs see the business or not-for-profit they create as the means to achieve their social goals. Although the main goal of a social entrepreneur is to implement improvements in society, they must still be business savvy to succeed. Miriam Morales, a 2019 Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur nominee, is both.

Miriam left her family’s coffee farm in Nicaragua during the turbulence of the 1980s. She studied engineering at Northeastern University before embarking on a 20-year career as a Christian minister in Massachusetts. Everything changed in 2011 when her father suffered serious injuries in a car accident, putting not only the future of the family business in jeopardy but also the livelihoods of dozens of families who depended on it. Miriam and her husband, Hector, knew they had to help. They started to sell small batches of the farm’s raw coffee to their friends in Massachusetts. The beans proved to be popular and within no time they were roasting coffee to sell at farmers markets and local stores. Before long they opened a storefront in West Roxbury and later in Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

Miriam’s motivation to help both her adopted and childhood communities is evident through every layer of El Recreo Coffee and Rosterie’s history. Providing living wages for employees in the United States and Nicaragua and meeting the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainability certifications are just the ethical baseline for this “farm-to-cup” undertaking. El Recreo is so much a part of the fabric of the neighborhood that it’s known as the “living room of West Roxbury.” Meanwhile, in Jinotega, Nicaragua, the profits from El Recreo are going directly back into the community. Workers on the farm receive free housing, healthcare, literacy education and technical training, all furnished by coffee sales. The Morales family plans to build schools across the region. Miriam brings her two communities together by organizing an annual trip to Jinotega for Massachusetts coffee buyers and connoisseurs to learn firsthand about fair trade practices and meet the people who grow their coffee.

Conclusion

Social responsibility is natural for immigrants like Miriam Morales and Joseph Ngaruiya. For both, building a business is an act that brings them closer to their adopted communities and allows them to connect with the homes that they grew up in. Celebrating the incredible entrepreneurial spirit and sense of social responsibility of immigrant business owners is why we founded the Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards. Visit our website to learn more about the accomplishments of Joseph, Miriam and their fellow nominees.

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