Starting a business in the U.S. as an immigrant entrepreneur can be both challenging and rewarding. To ensure success, it can help to gather perspective from someone who has done it successfully.
Ron Ben Zeev is the CEO of World Housing Solution, a Connecticut based company that provides expeditionary structures. A lifelong entrepreneur, Ben Zeev was born in Israel and spent his childhood in Africa. He then moved to Europe and started his first business in France at the age of 13.
Since then, Ben Zeev has started businesses on multiple continents and is well versed in what it takes to start a successful business as an immigrant entrepreneur. While he says starting a business as an immigrant in the U.S. poses a unique set of challenges, it also presents opportunities you can’t find anywhere else.
Tips for Immigrant Entrepreneurs
Ben Zeev shared his unique perspective in a recent email interview with Small Business Trends. See some top tips for immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. below.
Grasp Unique Opportunities
Starting a business in the U.S. means that entrepreneurs have different regulations and processes to consider. That can provide new opportunities for those who are used to the processes from other countries.
Ben Zeev says, “Early into my life as an entrepreneur, having lived in Europe, I realized very quickly the US offered opportunities that were hard, if not impossible, to come by in more staid and rigid environment. Things of course have changed since then but overall the US still remains, by and large, a place where you can succeed no matter where you came from.”
Keep Fundamentals in Mind
In general, starting a business in the U.S. requires the same type of innovation and problem solving as it would in any other country. You still need to create something that people want, research your market, create a business plan, and get the word out about your offering. Keeping those fundamentals in mind throughout the process can improve your chances of success.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
You can learn a language from anywhere. But learning a culture can be more complicated. And that’s an important part of understanding the market for your product or service.
Ben Zeev explains, “Culture is a difficult thing to learn, you can only experience it. When I came to the US, I spoke English rather well, but I did not grasp the cultural nuances that flavor our day to day lives — that only comes from living here, reading, watching and socializing.”
Be Part of the Community
You can also learn about your potential customers and do some valuable networking by immersing yourself in the local community where you set up shop, especially if you have a local business like a store or restaurant. Attend local events. Partner with other businesses. Get involved with local causes and charitable groups.
Don’t Let Challenges Hold You Back
Immigrants in the U.S. do face challenges that others may not have to worry about. Ben Zeev acknowledges those cultural challenges, but says if you want to succeed in business you can’t let them hold you back.
He says, “The climate for immigrants has changed, that is an undeniable fact. However, wave after wave of immigrants in the past have faced their own challenges from the Irish to the Italians to the Germans and more recently immigrants from Asia and, of course, Central and South America. No one made it easy for them and yet they came. Today we are challenged by a more overtly xenophobic rhetoric than we have seen in the recent past, but it is nothing new.”
Solve a Problem
To start a successful business anywhere, you need to keep your customer in mind. Create something that can actually solve a problem for them in a way that no one else can.
Ben Zeev says, “Fundamentally, the secret of launching a successful venture, no matter where you come from, is to solve a problem that people care about in a way that separates you from the competition.”
Use Your Unique Perspective
Being an immigrant entrepreneur doesn’t just present challenges — it also presents opportunities. You have experiences that U.S. entrepreneurs don’t. So you can potentially use those experiences to shape a product or service that’s truly unique. For example, you might know of a solution in another country that hasn’t made it’s way to the U.S. yet. Or you might be aware of a trend that you think could resonate with U.S. consumers. Use that perspective to your advantage.
Of course, today you don’t have to operate a business out of just one spot. You can use technology to reach customers all around the world. So use your global perspective to create offerings that might resonate with various consumers and use the internet to communicate with them.
Be Passionate About Your Offerings
Ben Zeev says that another important part of succeeding as an entrepreneur anywhere is to be personally invested in your business. You have to launch something that really matters to you and that you’re passionate about if you want to stay in it for the long haul.
Add a Social Element
He also says that it’s a bonus if your product or service is something that’s good for the planet in some way. Launching a sustainable product is one way to accomplish this. Or you could add a social or charitable element to your business to make it really stand out.
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