Thinking about Owning a Business? Here are 5 Points African Immigrants Should Think about:
Many immigrants from Africa were entrepreneurs in native countries. Those that weren’t have at least one close relative in business. The reason is not far-fetched: the socio-economic conditions of many African countries make working for someone scarce, inaccessible, and sometimes unfavorable. It is advisable to try working for someone if you’ve arrived into the US less than 3 years even if you have a viable business idea planned. This would give you enough time to adjust to your physical environment and then to the business world. Here are points to think about when planning to start own business:
1. Legal Status –
Your legal status in the US has everything to do with it if you are starting your own business. There are benefits and there are risks depending on your legal identity. For instance, a citizen of United States could register his/her business as an S Corp thereby allowing the profits or losses from the business to pass through owners’ personal income tax returns. For both citizens and permanent residents, there are useful resources available from the states and local governments such as mentoring, free business courses, and support for businesses owned by women and minority.
It’s important to add that if undocumented, and you believe you’ve been bitten by a honey bug of great business idea, you must thread gently and carefully, but you shouldn’t, at the same time, sit on your ideas. Remember you are already here, and must make it somehow? Instead, reach out to someone you trust, and begin conversation. Don’t let all the cats out from the hat at once. Make your conversation gradual until you feel very comfortable. Since all information shared with an attorney is privileged, you could also consider speaking to an immigration attorney and build on from there. USAIG maintains a listing of attorneys that had been vetted for competence. Feel free to explore on this site and reach out to any of them.
2. Product –
Taking legal matters out of the way, the next question becomes what are you thinking of making or selling? What is your offering? Who needs what you are offering, and how would you reach them? These questions are critical, and providing thoughtful answers to them from this point would go a long way in saving you from frustration down the road. Be careful with the ‘Build it first, and they will come’ idea unless you are treating the business as a side hustle. A side hustle is something you do on the side to make extra income. Your talent and/or hobby could get you extra income if you are very creative and are ready to put yourself out there. A side hustle though is not a business, but a start. It could be and should be treated as one. Here is a link on Side Hustle: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/300049
3. Relationship with Risk –
Another name that will fit a business man or woman perfectly is risk-taker. As you think about owning your own business, examine your relationship with risk-taking. Can you stand losing some or even all your hard-earned income? Business can be defined as sending each of your dollar out there to find more dollars. Some will return without finding any, and sadly some will not return at all. The good news is business hardly work like playing lottery. Your chances of making money from business are much higher if you’ve done your homework including educating yourself by reading, asking questions, planning, and setting realistic goals.
4. Capital –
We get into business back home much easily. The lack of huge capital doesn’t stop anyone from starting, and where such capital is highly needed, families and friends and even community chip in. The restaurant business my sister and I started 18 years ago started with 250 naira (Nigeria currency) with a church member lending us a food cooler and a friend and mentor who allowed us to build a movable structure in front of his business. You are in a different world here. To raise capital you must borrow loan, and to borrow loan, you must have good credit and have that business registered. After borrowing you must pay back or it follows you around like a shadow. All these are said to emphasize one thing: save and put some money away to get started.
5. Day Job Option –
Should you be thinking about getting a day job when thinking about owning a business? Isn’t the point about owning your own business is not to work for someone else? Well, think twice. According to Sharon Michaels, a business startup coach for women, there is a mindset to owning a business versus working for someone (see link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2013/01/03/should-you-find-a-job-or-start-a-business/#615a8a3f603a). An internet search on whether to start your own business or get a day job instead will give you a series of advice on pros and cons. You can end up with doubts or inaction afterwards. The best take-away, in my view, is first to have a purpose for wanting to start your own business, and this purpose should be one that a day job option cannot equally meet. Second, save, save, and save to build your starting capital. Your saving goal could be met by getting a day job.
References and other Useful Links: