Immigrant Businesses Thriving, But Need Help

February 23, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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BROOKLYN — According to a new report from the Fund for Public Advocacy and ACCION USA, immigrant-owned businesses are thriving across New York City.

This takes on special importance in Brooklyn where, according to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, fully 50 percent of the borough’s immigrants identify themselves as business owners.

However, many of these businesses may ultimately be at a deficit because they operate under early 20th century conditions and are unaware of many possible sources of funding.

For example, according to the Public Advocate’s Office, 93 percent of Brooklyn immigrant business owners do not have a website, 88 percent received no help when starting up, and 40 percent said they needed help with financing.

Citywide, a staggering 92 percent of these owners started and still run their businesses with no outside financing, counseling or marketing. And nearly four in five business owners voiced a desire for help in these areas; the most often reason cited for not seeking help was a lack of knowledge about the programs available.

The Fund for Public Advocacy — a non-profit within the office of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio — recently announced a series of pilot projects to reach immigrant business owners with technical help and financial services.

“Immigrant businesses are an economic blind spot for New York City. We set out to solve the data deficit so we can start tailoring City programs to also suit the specific needs of immigrant entrepreneurs,” said de Blasio.

The report urges city agencies to extend existing business services such as credit counseling, marketing support and help in navigating the permitting process in collaboration with community-based non-profits and organizations that can interact with immigrant entrepreneurs in their own languages.

The Fund for Public Advocacy plans to:

• Develop a program with micro-lenders to provide 200 businesses with credit counseling, debt management, legal assistance and budgeting help
• Partner with tech firms to expand online marketing and social media presence for 200 immigrant small businesses
• Create and distribute a toolkit of existing support programs directly to 5,000 immigrant-owned businesses
• Host a five-borough listening tour with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Center for a New Urban Future, and other local community-based organizations to help city programs maximize job creation at immigrant firms.

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