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 U.S.-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.

of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second generation immigrants.


of Main Street businesses were founded by immigrants.

One in four

of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second generation immigrants.


of Main Street businesses were founded by immigrants.
One in four

Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

Here is a tribute to 74 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

An Eritrean immigrant in Vermont is up for the top award in the restaurant industry

February 5, 2023

Eritrean American immigrant entrepreneur Alganesh Michael is a semifinalist for a prestigious James Beard Award for best chef in the Northeast.

Highly Skilled Immigrants Drive U.S. Innovation, Report Shows

January 12, 2023

A new study shows immigrants produce a significant percentage of innovations in America and make U.S.-born individuals more inventive.

Highlighting immigrant food trucks owners on campus

December 2, 2022

Drexel University’s campus culture is enriched by immigrant entrepreneur food truck vendors who keep the students’ supplied with fresh, health, diverse cuisine.

Meet Luis von Ahn, the Guatemalan immigrant behind the world’s most popular language app Duolingo

November 16, 2022

Guatemalan American Luis von Ahn developed Duolingo to help more people access free educational tools, regardless of their background.

3 Reasons To Invest In Immigrant Founders During A Recession

October 27, 2022

A venture capitalist and immigrant founder explains why her fellow foreign-born Americans thrive as entrepreneurs.

How do immigrant entrepreneurs thrive in Philadelphia? 5 business owners on building their legacies

September 19, 2022

These five immigrant entrepreneurs exemplify the drive of the foreign-born business owners who are fueling the Philadelphia economy.

Immigrant Ben Liu And TrialSpark Revolutionizing Clinical Trials

August 10, 2022

Ben Liu is helping valuable new medications come to market faster and more cheaply with his startup TrialSpark.

From Refugee Camp To Successful Entrepreneurs: How These Eritrean Twins Are Changing The Makeup Industry

July 28, 2022

Twin sisters Feven and Helena Yohannes drew on their experiences growing up in a refugee camp to define the philosophy of their beauty brand.

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.

The ILC’s immigrant entrepreneur video series features immigrant entrepreneurs from around the world and from many sectors of the economy. Watch them here. The ILC has also partnered with Pioneer Institute to create a podcast to feature full-length interviews with immigrant entrepreneurs. Explore them here.

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 Entrepreneurs Benefit N.E. Economy, Despite Facing Obstacles to Growth

Pioneer Institute, June 2023

Immigrants in Massachusetts and New England are more likely to be self-employed, but the businesses they own tend to be in different industries than those owned by the U.S.-born.


Immigrant entrepreneurs: A review of the literature and an agenda for future investigations

International Journal of Intercultural Relations, November 2022

Immigrant entrepreneurs have grown in number and importance. Their role in the global economy is worth studying and supporting.


Getting Schooled: The Role of Universities in Attracting Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Working Paper Series, August 2022

Immigrant founders are likely to start their companies in the state in which they were educated, leading to potentially large local economic benefits associated with attracting foreign students.


Immigrant Entrepreneurs and U.S. Billion-Dollar Companies

National Foundation for American Policy, July 2022

Immigrants have started more than half (319 of 582, or 55 percent) of the United State’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more.


Immigrant Entrepreneurship: Economic Potential and Obstacles to Success

Bipartisan Policy Center, June 2022

Immigrants are 10 percent more likely to own their own business than U.S.-born people and found approximately 25 percent of all new businesses.


New American Fortune 500 in 2022: The Largest American Companies and Their Immigrant Roots

American Immigration Council, June 2022

43.8 percent of 2022 Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by immigrants.


Immigration and Entrepreneurship in the United States

American Economic Association, March 2022

Immigrants act as “job creators” and play outsized roles in U.S. high-growth entrepreneurship by starting new firms and expanding labor demand.


New American Fortune 500 in 2021: Top American Companies and Their Immigrant Roots

New American Economy, June 2021

On average, New American Economy has found that more than two out of every five Fortune 500 companies had at least one immigrant or child-of-immigrant founder. In 2021, they found that 44 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.


The Megaphone of Main Street: Unsung Entrepreneurs

Score, May 2021

One in five entrepreneurs in the United States is a first-generation immigrant. This report also found that immigrant entrepreneurs are more likely to hire employees, even in times of financial hardship.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards Benefit

To call attention to the critical contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts, The Immigrant Learning Center hosts The Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards Benefit each fall.

From left to right: The ILC Executive Director Vince Rivers, Neighborhood Business Winner Son Vo, Business Growth Winner Wendy Estrella, Life Science Business Winner Isabel Aznarez, Technology Business Winner Frank van Mierlo and The ILC Public Education Institute Director Denzil Mohammed


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.

Resources for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Financial Resources for Minority Business Owners

This collection of resources includes more than 100 programs, initiatives and grants for minority-owned businesses across the United States.



Housed at the Harvard Innovation Labs, DreamxAmerica is a new movement that joins storytelling and impact investing to support immigrant entrepreneurs across America.


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.



This organization specializes in helping immigrant founders and start-ups obtain work visas quickly and efficiently.

Resources About Immigrant Entrepreneurs


A podcast produced by The ILC and the Pioneer Institute featuring interviews with immigrant entrepreneurs and leaders who are contributing to their communities


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 with interviews of and about immigrant entrepreneurs


Breaking the Borders

Podcast and newsletter featuring stories of successful immigrant entrepreneurs


Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Changing Cultures & Economies

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


Immigrant Entrepreneurs from the Story Exchange

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


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

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