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How to Start a Business as an Immigrant

It was 2012. I had just stepped on Canadian ground for the first time, and that marked the beginning on my journey from an Iranian pre-med student to the CEO of Spocket.

At 25, there were lessons to be learnt and challenges to be faced as entrepreneurship took hold of my fascination: and through the years, I gained insight into what was really important to succeed in a business- and what wasn’t. What condenses a dream to actionable reality and how does one navigate the path in an unknown country? Here’s a few tips from my personal experience that I wish I knew when I started.

Hard Work is Key

Once I had decided to build Spocket- I was ready to take the plunge. I did not have a treasure trove I could dive into for funds. As a student, all I had in my bank account were 200 dollars, but that did not hinder Spocket from ballooning to what it is now. I worked at 4 places just so I could pay co-op students to build the beta-version of Spocket.

It is said that you only need to get it right once: and the rest will follow. Money should not be what is stopping you.

Build Trust

While you do not require much in terms of funds, you need people you can rely on. Whether it is your team members, investors, advisors- any sort of relationship you build, infuse trust into it. Without solid back-up, your business foundation is weak. These people will be the biggest assets for you and your business.

The best ideas are born in an environment where people can voice their opinion freely, and can trust you. Make sure you create a culture that is healthy and inspiring.

Don’t Give Up

The cliché is an absolute jewel: if you believe in your dream, cease to doubt about it. Keep working your brains on it till you get it right.

For the initial 5 months of Spocket, there was an endless stream of feedback, none too assuring. There were people saying that it would never work: this included potential investors as well. I also heard people saying that if it did manage to work, a bigger company would make a meal out of Spocket.

Apart from that, I had to start from scratch: building connections from ground up, searching for solutions, picking up programming to kickstart the app- in a country that was, in the beginning, foreign to me. But I believed in Spocket.

And there was this incident that reminded me to keep going: Back in 2000, Reed Hastings approached the movie rental service ‘Blockbuster’ to give away his own company- Netflix- for a mere $50 million. But the offer was rejected by the then CEO of Blockbuster: citing that Netflix would not make it big, being too niche. Reed Hastings kept at it. So should you.

Don’t give in when you hear negative comments. Because Spocket is heading towards becoming one of those ‘bigger’ companies that would have supposedly swallowed us.

Surround Yourself With Good People

A company is nothing without amazing people who put in sweat and blood to bring your dream to life.

  • Hiring can be tricky, but never rush it: find passionate and hard-working people to support the company.
  • The fate of a business is a cumulation of all the people that are part of the company’s progress, and people who are inquisitive and ready to learn and build your company alongside you are the key to success.
  • People who clock-in, clock-out might fit the job description, but to truly make a terrific company, you have to hunt for people who are as excited to take your business to new heights as you are.

Entrepreneurship in a whole new world can be hard- with experience and language and cultural barriers, but  with determination, one can build a business to be proud of.

More than 1 in 5 people in Canada are immigrants- and that should give all aspiring entrepreneurs the courage to take the leap. Business here, has a lot to offer to all entrepreneurs: including ones that start in their dormitories with $200 in hand.

Here to Help

No matter what stage of business, or what problem you face, Small Business BC offers a range of seminars and one-on-one advisory sessions to suit any business.

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