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Celebrating Refugee Entrepreneurship: Global Rising X Equity Languages

Refugees and immigrants arriving in the United States often face significant challenges as they seek to build new lives. From cultural adjustments to navigating complex legal systems, their journey is filled with hurdles. And that’s exactly why there are support systems designed to ease this transition and open up new opportunities, specifically in entrepreneurship. 


Programs that encourage and support entrepreneurial endeavors within the refugee community can be transformative, offering a pathway to economic independence and community integration. One such program is Global Rising, an initiative by the Global Cleveland organization. This program has been instrumental in fostering entrepreneurship among refugees and immigrants. 


A shining example of its success is Victor Harerimana, the founder of Equity Languages and Employment. Equity Languages is dedicated to providing translation and employment services to immigrants and refugees, embodying the spirit of empowerment and community support. Victor’s journey to entrepreneurship as a refugee underscores the impact that programs like Global Rising can have on our community. 


A Refugee’s Journey to Entrepreneurship 


In this article, Victor shares his story and experience, highlighting his journey and the pivotal role the Global Rising program played in his business success.


Hi Victor! Can you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and when did you first arrive in Cleveland?


"My name is Harerimana Victor. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but grew up in Uganda as a refugee. I came to the U.S. in 2018."


Did you always aspire to start your own business upon arriving in the U.S.?


"I had no aspirations to start my own business. I thought about it after realizing the need for language and employment services in the refugee and immigrant communities."


How did you hear about Global Cleveland?


"I was referred to Global Cleveland by a friend who participated in the Global Rising program."


What motivated you to join their Global Rising program?


"I joined the Global Rising program because I wanted to improve my leadership skills and learn from other successful entrepreneurs who were also immigrants like me."


Describe your experience in the Global Rising program. What did you learn, and how did your business plan evolve?


"The Global Rising program helped me improve my confidence in everything I planned to do. Meeting different mentors and hearing from many successful immigrants gave me a lot of reasons to believe in myself. I was introduced to many resources that helped improve myself and boost my business."


What is Equity Languages' mission, and what are your future goals for the company?


"Equity Languages' mission is to provide quality interpretation, translation, and employment services to the members of immigrant and refugee communities in the USA. The future goals for the company are to expand and provide these services to every immigrant in the US who may need them."


What advice would you give to other refugees interested in starting their own businesses but feeling uncertain or intimidated?


"You will always feel uncertain to do anything in a foreign country, especially when you bear the name 'refugee' like me. You only gain confidence after learning from those who are like you and have succeeded. That is why the Global Rising Program is very important."


Learn More About The Global Rising Program


The Global Rising International Leadership Program by Global Cleveland is designed to empower international newcomers by providing them with the skills, knowledge, and tools required to grow and thrive in Northeast Ohio. Through a series of workshops, mentorship sessions, and networking opportunities, participants can grow their professional connections, enhance their leadership skills, and gain confidence.


The application process for the program is straightforward, encouraging any refugees and immigrants interested in discovering how they can thrive in Northeast Ohio to apply. The program is open to individuals from diverse backgrounds and aims to create a supportive community of like-minded individuals.


“At Global Cleveland, we like to say that change happens at the speed of relationships, and the Global Rising International Leadership Program is all about growing lasting, empowering relationships,” Gwendolyn Kochur, Marketing Director at Global Cleveland said. “For our international newcomers, it’s important that they have a space where they can build leadership skills, confidence, and networks, whether it be with their fellow international peers, mentors, or other major players in our community. We’ve seen incredible results from the program so far, and we look forward to helping even more international newcomers connect with the tools they need to truly grow and thrive in our region.”  


Empowering Refugee Entrepreneurship in Our Communities 


The journey of refugees and migrants in the U.S. is challenging, but with the right support systems, they can thrive and enrich our communities. Programs like Global Rising by Global Cleveland play a crucial role in this process, offering new arrivals the tools and confidence to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Victor’s story and the success of Equity Languages serve as inspiring examples of what can be achieved through such initiatives.


For those interested in starting their own business or supporting these initiatives, consider exploring programs like Global Rising or Global Cleveland’s Global Entrepreneur In Residence (GEIR) program. With determination and the right support, the possibilities are limitless.


More About Entrepreneurship for Refugees and Immigrants

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about entrepreneurship for refugees and immigrants in the US. 


What is a refugee entrepreneur?

A refugee entrepreneur is an individual who has left their home country due to persecution or conflict and has started a business in their host country. These entrepreneurs often leverage their unique skills, experiences, and perspectives to create businesses that serve both their communities and the wider market. 


Refugee entrepreneurs play a vital role in economic growth and cultural diversity, bringing innovative ideas and solutions to the forefront.


Can refugees start a business?

Yes, refugees can start a business in the United States. They have the legal right to work and start their own businesses just like U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. 


Many organizations and programs, such as the Global Rising program by Global Cleveland, offer resources and support specifically tailored to help refugees navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. These resources include business training, mentorship, and access to financial assistance.


Are immigrants more likely to be entrepreneurs?

Yes, immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs compared to native-born residents. 


According to a study highlighted by the National Immigration Forum, while only 9% of American-born residents engage in entrepreneurship, 11.5% of immigrants are business owners. This number is even higher for refugees, with 13% of individuals who have immigrated to the U.S. as part of the refugee program owning a business. 


This data underscores the significant entrepreneurial spirit within immigrant and refugee communities, highlighting their vital contribution to the economy.


Can non-citizens get a business loan?

Yes, non-citizens can obtain business loans in the United States. Many financial institutions and lenders offer business loans to non-citizens, including refugees and immigrants, as long as they meet certain criteria. 


These criteria typically include having a solid business plan, a good credit history, and the necessary documentation, such as a visa or green card. Additionally, there are specific loan programs and grants available through organizations and government agencies that are designed to support immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs.

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