Immigrant Small Business in New York City: Services, Challenges, and Solutions

Ryan Sullivan, Fordham University


New York is home to the most diverse immigrant population of any major city in the world and immigrants make up nearly half of the city’s workforce. Yet the city is faced with a paradox. Immigrants often encounter herculean challenges as they attempt to start and maintain a business, which keep some from getting out of the starting gate and inhibit others from growing beyond the mom-and-pop stage. Some of the obstacles they face are common to all entrepreneurs, but many others are much more daunting for immigrants—including language and cultural barriers, a lack of awareness about local regulations, limited financial literacy and, often, no credit history. Immigrant entrepreneurs remain largely disconnected from cities’ local economic development planning. Finally, immigrant small business owners are increasingly fighting detrimental zoning polices, storefront vacancies, and gentrification often leading to displacement. The city’s Department of Small Business Services and allied cooperative organizations offer a litany of programs and opportunities to aid to immigrant entrepreneurs in New York City, but ethnographic research indicates they do not fully utilize these services offered. The goal of research below is to explore to what these challenges are and why they are underutilized. Bridging these gaps would led to positive outcomes for both immigrant entrepreneurs, service providers, and the city overall.

Subject Area

Public policy|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Sullivan, Ryan, "Immigrant Small Business in New York City: Services, Challenges, and Solutions" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10930061.