An overview of
the challenges within the
ethnic entrepreneur community
Segla, Arnaud, 1978-, author
An overview of the challenges within the
ethnic entrepreneur community
ISBN KDP: 978-1790649020
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 2017 Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, 2017
Book and cover design: ASSOUKA
Cover illustration: © rabbit75_fot
Translation: ldoron – Fiverr.com
What is ethnic entrepreneurship?
Ethnic entrepreneurship applies to business projects developed by the new immigrants. Also applies to resident entrepreneurs who enrich the offer of local products and services by those of their culture.
“Each Human is
important to the eyes of God.”
The idea of writing an overview of the challenges within the Montreal ethnic entrepreneur community was given
by my former director to assess the need for new services and initiatives. Instead of making an inventory of specific needs from my day to day work experience with the Black entrepreneurs I created a general picture of the main realities within the ethnic community in the Cities of Western countries where we live as Diaspora. This analysis target essentially the ethnic entrepreneurs that recently immigrated, emphasis on the Black community, who have the challenge to integrate themselves as individuals or communities. Most of you are familiar with them, but at least we can now have a document that we can share so that everyone will be on the same page to start an action against these challenges and initiate CHANGE…
The major obstacle that ethnic entrepreneur community is facing is access (qualification) to financing sources for ethnic projects. The banks are focusing on the project in technology with a high degree of innovation and are more willing to give money to projects already in the commercialization phase. This is not the case of most projects that we support. They still need to have some aspects of their concepts finalized. Apart of the banks there are institutions that give loans or grants. Most of the loans have quite high interest rates due to the fact that there is a risk to finance this kind of projects or due to the credit score of the entrepreneur. There is high demand for the grants, but the offer is reduced. The last sources are contests that offer grants as prizes, but you can find few Ethnic entrepreneurs, so far, in those general contests except those targeting this public. That justify the specialization of the supporting agency, such as the one for women, immigrants, or the ethnic community to address those specific needs. A fund that can provide kickstart money as loan or grant especially for small projects is needed and could make the difference in our Cities. That will complement the offer of community credit (based on microfinance) that is available all over the province. These financial initiatives to help entrepreneurs can create many success stories: “Small amounts for great impact.”
Despite high creativity in building a concept or expressing a business idea most entrepreneurs still don’t know the basic elements of strategy to position themselves on the market and be sustainable by grabbing market share based on a continuous marketing strategy. This is due to two main aspects. The first aspect is the business culture of the ethnic community in which businesses are initiated for surviving or everyday living purposes. This cliché deeply influenced the way people consider their businesses when they start without previous experience: Just as a source of income to live and not to grow and create wealth. The second aspect is that the businesspeople who are really successful already live in the circles of businesspeople (family, network, inspiring figures etc.) in most of the cases. Some will say that they learn from other communities, such as Jewish people, how to deal with money or that it’s natural for them. In Africa where the Black people originated, we have a cast of merchant and informal trade is accessible to everyone. The business culture, including strategy, is not an obstacle that we cannot overcome. This resource is still inside us and we can learn the best from others and take advantage of the technology to be higher performers in developing our community economy.
Doing business implies learning every day and staying connected to the trends that affect our market. It is not common to see an ethnic entrepreneur value informative or business intelligence to question himself or evolve. Most of them think they already know everything and just have to run their businesses. They often neglect the market research since they want to start selling and be active as soon as possible, then see that they are not making the money they were expecting. This obstacle applies not only for ethnic entrepreneurs but is within us. I call it “knowledge”, but it can be seen as everyday readiness to adapt and pivot due to change in the environment. It’s all about habit and behaviour because the information is available and other entrepreneurs will make the effort to go and learn every day from blogs, online newspapers, or traditional media. The only solution is to keep on sensitizing entrepreneurs to this necessity in their work. One example of essential knowledge is financial literacy to cope with bad credit profiles that limit ethnic entrepreneurs in accessing grants, loans, or credit lines.
One important asset for doing business is the network. Experts say that you need to have at least one accountant and a lawyer to run as SME efficiently. A good network also includes a potential partner or supporter. I make the difference with a consumer or supporter community of a business and the entrepreneur network. This network should be full of potential resource people or businesses. It should be an assortment of useful profiles and be as reliable as possible. The mistake that some Ethnic entrepreneurs often make is that they stay in a small and defensive network to “strengthen” the relationships and solidarity between businesses and peers. They keep on developing the vision of the “for us by us” reacting concept. This a way of doing business, but, in the Cities, we are not numerous enough to have a strong ethnic economy as an enclave. “The money needs to circulate” as we need to keep in mind. We need to make the difference between solidarity among us to sell outside the community and developing local market to sell within us. There are different manners of supporting ethnic enterprises apart from being an exclusive client. The Chinese (or Asian) community is showing solidarity, but still sells outside the community, because there is a promotion of specific products that are now part of people’s regular needs (food or restaurant, proximity grocery, low cost product). Other ethnic community could also think about their specialization as part of the strategies to enter the Cities market: art, dance courses, craft, sports coaching, consulting, freelance etc. at a high level of QUALITY or HIGH ETHNIC ADDED VALUE to what is achievable with natural strengths and not only through niches. “Quality can sell everything to everyone”. Building an efficient network means opening the door to other cultures and skilled people. It’s all about the mindset of the entrepreneur. Better networking choices will lead to a generally better integration of ethnic entrepreneurs in the Cities. If we reinforce our strengths, by specializing our offers and not competing with others in what is common in the market, we could avoid too much diversification due to our creativity.
The ethnic project suffers from lack of recognition compared to the rest of integrated entrepreneurs. The analysts don’t understand the relevance of these projects which are in most cases look the same. As I said, we are creative, but this creativity scarcely leads to innovation, which is what makes the difference in market economy (neo liberal). Creativity is usual business for informal economy, but lack of realism in the transition to the market economy limits the impact of this talent. The ethnic entrepreneur does the same thing as the neighbour and only add a specific personalizing touch to be “unique”. Thus, they often think that people steal their ideas. Creativity is not enough if you don’t create a breakthrough that helps your competitive advantage to have more impact on the market and make the difference with the competition et strengthen the sector entry barrier. We see a lot of hair, skin, health care, wellness companies, and alsoonline fashion store ideas from women, and technology based, professional services firms from men. It’s all about taking risk. By taking more risk in using their creativity and being realistic, it will lead ethnic entrepreneurs to more innovation and then diversify the portfolio of ideas issued from Diasporas in the Cities.
The profile of the ethnic entrepreneur is affected by diversity, low financial power and the difference in the immigration period. The diversity is a common aspect and part of the community’s inner reality, which is why we state, “cultural groups within the ethnic community”. That means that our approach to business is different from one culture to another: Francophone vs. Anglophone vs. Lusophone vs hispanophone …; African diaspora vs. Caribbean diaspora… The way you do your promotion or offer services to these different cultural groups should be different. One will prefer the prestige and the other will prefer low price or identity. Some are straight in their business relationships and others will prefer flexibility. Addressing those groups as unique entities could lead to certain mistakes despite the fact that there is an apparent dynamic of sharing an “ethnic culture” based essentially on the common origin of the ancient people or the sense of belonging to a great and major religious group. Traditions are as various as people, so they can’t be a real factor of unification. Personally, I prefer to talk about “federation” of people instead of union concerning Africa and beyond ethnic groups. In general, the ethnic community members value education, but don’t come from the same realities. For example, most of the Africans had access to low price education, but that was for an intellectual elite created through a system of eliminating examination that narrows the number of students all along the process. Nowadays quality education is more challenging. In North America studies are accessible to those who can afford them without a great selection process. That leads the low financial power population to stay in the lower part of the socioeconomic category. That creates a difference between the African immigrants and the Afro descendants in North America who can barely share the same vision of their life in the Cities nor the action to be taken to change the situation. The low financial power is also due to the fact that jobs accessible to most members of our community are often with low wages despite the level of education. That creates a class of people with the same (middle) revenue level even if some have different experiences with social outreach (or social mobility). Indeed, these success stories from ethnic community members are the result of success in integration and sometimes lead to a rupture or less engagement with the ethnic community and realities. Ethnic groups are not the only ones to suffer from insufficient revenue, but lack of integration reduces access to key social and strategic positions. At last the difference in the period of immigration of communities foster or not the social outreach of new comers. There is no fate in the fact that the members of the community have less social outreach. Entrepreneurship is a good way to change things. We need discipline and efforts to walk this way and ensure that many of us succeed.
The attitude of ethnic entrepreneurs is often between distrust (they know everything for their business) and victimization (the world is against nous). In the middle you have ignorance of the basic codes of business: realism and power. Once again, it’s all about the mindset. Most of us are Soul people and despite the challenges we can rely on our faith (on God or on what we believe in and that drive us) to move forward and build better conditions for the next generations. We spent a lot of time fighting against other cultures or regions, but the great fight is still within us to free the intimates (and maybe spiritual) sources that lead to PRIDE and WEALTH and unify us in the symbols of civilization. At some point we need to have a point of no return to the past and see the potential of the future to build a better economic situation for our people all over the world. We need to change and correct our attitude (mindset and behaviour) by firstly believing in ourselves and considering us as bearers of essential projects for Humanity (no matter what the size or the impact). Secondly by federating ourselves as a strong and diversified community. Then we will prosper together to build a better heritage for the next generations. And at last share our heritage with the next generations so we achieve a quantum community revenue leap at each generation. Changing the attitude is a process: Believe – Federate – Prosper – Share. It’s a new deal that we can achieve because “Faith is our strength and drive”.
With globalization all the people are fighting for the sake of their civilizations or cultures. Economic development and even power should prevent people from losing their identity and disappearing by adopting other people’s ways of life. More than this cultural concern, the fight against insufficient revenue and beyond “poverty” that affects the ethnic community is a legitimate reason to change our mindset to succeed in everything we achieve, especially business. We are the only ones to understand and invest in the future of the next generations by committing to efforts, efforts, and efforts again for the rest of our lives the same way we pray… until Justice prevail again. The Quality in what we do is the key to open all the doors that were closed for our economic development. That takes the correction of our attitude (realism) and a better Time management as inner guide (power). The vision is that if entrepreneurship can help the skilled workforce which cope with insufficient revenue (new immigrants, non-integrated residents, bottom middle class citizens) to afford social outreach then, they could create jobs with their businesses to help the group of our community “suffering” from poverty. This is the reason of our engagement for ethnic entrepreneurship as consulting firm. This type of entrepreneurship should be ideally a vocation (as a life style) and not the worst-case option (for surviving). Hence the idea of performance that should we should consider. Despite the fact that God and Faith are not part of the business vocabulary we need to keep our Identity as Soul people to prevail in the market. This time the Recall that is made to us is about moderation; respecting each Human being and value Life:
“Each Human is important to the eyes of God.”
Photo: Awa Lake Diop
Arnaud Segla M. Sc., M. Sc. Admin., CAPM. Consultant, Manager and coach in ethnic, informal and corporate entrepreneurship. I organize and animate learning activities and accompany many entrepreneurs in the attaining of the objectives of their business project.
Since 2009 I offer consulting services for ethnic and informal entrepreneurship projects within the economic and identity development for migrant workforces. I associated myself with every helping stakeholder to realize my vision with the business The Wisemen Council.
After the advent of globalization, migration for economic reasons between and within states have increased strengthening ethnic and informal entrepreneurship phenomenon. This raised the question of the installation, integration and the success of these adventurers in search of an El Dorado. We believe that entrepreneurship is a solution for the reclaiming of economic power of the popular classes by creating wealth and value.
Our goal is to improve the performance of ethnic and informal structures and the quality of their outputs. To do this, we define better strategies and projects to improve the competitiveness of our partners and the knowledge of our partners’ customers. We definitely involve our skills to serve the community. This is the meaning of the message: “Every Human is important to the eyes of God.”
Our target clientele is usually divided into 3 major groups:
entrepreneurs and business incubators;
universities and entrepreneurial training organizations;
associations and organizations with a mandate to support entrepreneurs (community projects or development of entrepreneurship;
We invite you to discover our services in order to consider with us a beneficial partnership by leveraging our mutual resources to provide an efficient and quality solution for you and your customers.
The Wisemen Council is a firm focusing in strategic consulting for ethnic projects. Since 2009, it specializes in the implementation of simple management practices, effective and on measures for a better project performance and competitiveness of entrepreneurs and organizations operating in a critical financial environment. The Wisemen Council has developed an alternative method, the Ka Method, that we offer to some economic actors in the context of our Think Tank.