Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Growth – the missing ingredient of immigrant entrepreneurship research

Extant literature on ethnic minority and immigrant entrepreneurship does not account for growth in immigrant owned businesses! Despite a massive literature, previous studies have tended to rarely focus upon growth in immigrant owned business. To this end there has been an overemphasis upon small-scale survival type businesses, at the expense and neglect of accounting for the growth orientated immigrant entrepreneur. While it is true that immigrant entrepreneurs are over represented in small scale and typically immigrant sectors, it would be wrong to condemn all immigrant firms to these least rewarding areas of the economy. Though, if we were to fully adopt some fundamental theoretical perspectives from previous ethnic minority and immigrant entrepreneurship research, we may be led to believe that immigrant entrepreneurs are destined to run small retail outlets or restaurants, serving a local co-ethnic clientele and at best serving a local mainstream trade. This entrepreneurial carrier often entails a business life centred around staving of threats, cut throat pricing and a constant fight to survive.

Today however, we find immigrant entrepreneurs represented as growth oriented and successful entrepreneurs in the whole spectrum of industries. While what we currently know, is largely guided by mainstream media, who are quick to point to the stand out examples of spectacular success stories of growth in firms owned by immigrant entrepreneurs (often with a rags to riches narrative).

How do we as a research community understand and explain these occurrences? The short answer is we cannot. Our current models and theories, which are built upon non-entrepreneurial assumptions, suggest that this isn’t possible or at least it is atypical. If one looks at the current literature it is often based on the survival orientated entrepreneur and dominated by traditions other than pure entrepreneurship and growth.

If we were to lay our cards on the table, we as a research community (EMB) actually know very little about the growth of these exceptional firms and the immigrant or ethnic minority owners. Central to this problem is that previous EMB research lacks, a coherent theoretical perspective to account for and explain growth in immigrant businesses. This thesis has the ambition to be the first exploratory study of growth in immigrant firms, offered from an entrepreneurship standpoint but at the same time sensitised to the context of immigrant entrepreneurship. And thus this thesis muses the question: How do we account for growth in immigrant business?


Craig Mitchell