Guest Commentator: Ben Goebel, Program Manager, IPP, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians @welcomingcenter

How can we best support immigrant entrepreneurs and immigrant-owned small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond?

The COVID-19 crisis has deeply affected everyone, but especially our immigrant communities. Immigrants have been a major part of the growth of the city in the last decade. According to Domenic Vitiello, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who focuses on immigration, “[Immigrant-owned small businesses are] about revitalization of neighborhoods. It’s not a story of dramatic wealth creation. But they complement the larger economy and services.” (the Pew, “State of Immigrants in Philadelphia, 2018”). We know that the only way these businesses will recover from the impact of the pandemic is if we raise awareness for their needs and stories and make sure that they are supported by organizations such as the Welcoming Center coupled with loans and grants.

Here is the example of Asmaa, the founder of Syrian Kitchen. She graduated from our Business Training Program and is a participant in our Global Craft Market. Asmaa came to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria. Once she resettled in Philadelphia, she found the opportunity to use her passion for cooking to work from home. What started off as cooking and baking for friends led to her being asked to cook for events as a caterer. Now she has cooked for the University of Pennsylvania, City Hall, and even Governor Tom Wolf while also teaching cooking workshops with the Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, all spring catering orders have been cancelled. However, Asmaa is using her time to build her website, fine tune her business plan, and research commercial kitchens in the Lower Northeast.

Just like Asmaa, immigrant small business owners are hardworking and will do whatever it takes to make their businesses successful. This pandemic brought a new set of barriers, including access to information and access to funding. The Welcoming Center and many other organizations have had to adapt to this new situation and provide emergency support to immigrants on how to navigate grant and loan applications.

Remember to support small and local businesses by:

  • Ordering food from the small restaurant around the corner.
  • Sharing resources and programs with them. Immigrant business owners miss opportunities because of their lack of social capital, not their lack of hard work.

The Welcoming Center supports immigrant entrepreneurs through our Entrepreneurship programs. Pledge your support today! You can give online.

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group 110+ Chamber members and partners united to engage with a broad range of civic and neighborhood organizations in the development and execution of policies and initiatives, known as the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project.

Upcoming Event

[Virtual] Job Opportunities in a Recovering Economy: A Roadmap for Growth Issue Forum
Thursday, June 4, 2020 | 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Held via Zoom

At this virtual Roadmap for Growth issue forum, hear from community partners who are working with displaced workers on job training and placement as well as employers who are upskilling employees from within to fulfill the unique needs that have arisen in a post-crisis, digital world.