“Everyone can be an entrepreneur,” and more lessons learned at the mini Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit

“Todo concepto comienza con un sueño.”

Every (business) concept starts with a dream.

That was the message from Victor Oyervides, a Latino community liaison for ISU extension and outreach and the director of the West Liberty Chamber of commerce, when he addressed the audience at the Mini Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit (IES) in Cedar Rapids Tuesday January 20. He proceeded to lay out a step-by-step guide to help make the dream a reality.

 “My passion is to simplify entrepreneurship for immigrants. My passion is to help immigrants succeed in any area,” Oyervides said.

The IES has produced a day-long event in Central Iowa since 2008, and recently expanded across the state with the half-day mini summits. The Cedar Rapids session also included a speech from Chad Simmons, executive director of Diversity Focus and IES’ 2014 immigrant champion, and a workshop on financial statements from Ying Sa, founder of the IES and Community CPA.

“Business is a learned skill. It’s not anybody’s smarter than any other, it’s knowing how to move through the system,” Sa said. “Everyone can be an entrepreneur – it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’re doing today.”

Simmons, who has been involved with initiatives like the TEAM Centered Workplace concept, spoke on the importance of welcoming diverse populations to Iowa and making our communities feel like home.

“This is the American dream – so you can build something not only for you, not only for your family, but for your community,” he said.

For immigrants who have that dream, often the biggest challenge can be knowing where to start.

“We’ve talked about capital and other things – but these are issues everyone faces,” Oyervides said. “The biggest issue I see is, how do they educate, how do they empower themselves, how do they equip.”

Traditional resources might not always work for immigrant entrepreneurs, he said. For example, he cited a study from the SBA that found that Latino founders used smaller amounts of startup capital than other founders, which might mean they are operating smaller-scale businesses. He also noted that many programs dedicated to helping minorities and immigrants tend to be grant-funded, and may only last for a few years without long-term leadership.

Then, there is the language barrier. As Oyervides reacted to the audience, he started giving more and more of his presentation in Spanish.

His advice to the business community is to invite and mentor immigrant entrepreneurs.

“To be a mentor to an immigrant will have a big impact – like an explosion.”

Republished with permission © 2015 Iowa SourceMedia Group, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Sarah Binder Courtesy of WeCreateHere.net


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