Immigrant Entrepreneurship : A case study of Immigrant Entrepreneurs' challenges in the Jönköping Municipality
Background & Problem discussion: Recently, there has been an increased interest in topics such as immigrant entrepreneurship. Considering that most of the research until now is done in America with American examples, it would be beneficial if such results are verified or refuted in other countries as well, such as Sweden (Brundin, Bögenhold and Sundin, 2001). Overall, businesses ran by immigrant entrepreneurs are creating job opportunities and encouraging Europe’s economy, even though exposed to limited immigration policies and unpleasant public opinion (Halkias et al., 2007). Immigrant entrepreneurs are not a new phenomenon in Sweden and according to Hammarstedt (2004) immigrant self-employment compared to native small-businesses has increased throughout the years, and therefore an important role in the integration of immigrants was made possible by the self-employment sector as a source of employment.
Rather than that, most of the research done in this topic by many researchers has been focused in factors triggering immigrant entrepreneurs to start a business, but less researchers were focused in understanding the challenges they face and strategies they adopt in order to survive.
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to identify challenges that immigrant entrepreneurs face while starting and running their businesses and analyze how they are interrelated and how do immigrant entrepreneurs cope with them in the setting of a medium-sized town in Sweden. Jönköping as a medium sized town in Sweden is our context.
Theoretical framework: The literature used in this study covers studies conducted in different context such as: American, European and Swedish. The conducted studies involve case studies in different context done with immigrant entrepreneurs are mainly about the challenges they face and the strategies they adopt as solutions to those challenges. Such theory helped us identify common challenges among immigrant entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, considering that the existing literature does not explicitly discuss the role of the context (metropolitan, large city, medium-sized town, small (rural town), local community etc), we have to inquire especially into that and use our own data to build a supplementary theory.
Method: The method used in this study is a qualitative approach but also with some minor elements of a quantitative approach (the use of the questionnaire during the interviews asked from the respondents to rank the challenges and therefore helped to find out the most significant challenge among them). Considering that generally our study followed a qualitative approach, we have conducted ‘face-to-face’ interviews. There were eight semi-structured interviews. All of the interviews were tape recorded.
Conclusion: The findings of this study showed that challenges faced by our respondents were: start-up finance, finance for growth, access to markets, lack of language skills, lack of marketing/sales skills, lack of management skills, access to technology, lack of education, lack of visitors to Jönköping, maintaining customers, Swede’s negative views on immigrant businesses, awareness of food among customers, and competition. However, the four most significant challenges among them were: access to markets, start-up finance, lack of language skills and finance for growth.
Besides that the findings show that the strategies that are adopted by immigrant entrepreneurs that we interviewed include the following: use of personal savings, use of personal networks, bank loan, enter low market barriers, scanning the market beforehand, asking help from their customers about language barriers or taking a language course before starting, among others.
The findings showed that the context is important to a great extent but besides context, in order for the immigrant venture to occur it matters to a great extent, who the individual entrepreneur is and what business idea he/she develops. In addition, they are key factors contributing not only to the immigrant venture occurrence, but also to the success of the business.
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