Small Business: Immigrants setting up shop in NZ

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Ethnic precincts, where significant numbers of business owners from the same ethnic group set up shop have become more common over the last two decades, says Paul Spoonley. Photo / Supplied
Ethnic precincts, where significant numbers of business owners from the same ethnic group set up shop have become more common over the last two decades, says Paul Spoonley. Photo / Supplied

Professor Paul Spoonley, Regional Director and Research Director at Massey University for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is project leader for the FRST-funded Integration of Immigrants Programme.

How do immigrants go about setting up businesses in New Zealand?

It depends on where the immigrants are from. The largest group of immigrants arriving remain those from Britain and they typically establish business options before they arrive or on prior visits. The second largest groups - from China and India - tend to rely on co-ethnic networks for information about business establishment and support once they get here.

Do these businesses have to have a certain amount of finance to set up and is language an issue?

Immigrants are particularly involved in small businesses with a high level of self-employment in areas such as retail and food. The finance required to start these small businesses is often quite modest. The issue is making the business profitable. Language is an issue, especially for those from China and Korea. However,they compensate by strategies such as having employees who are fluent in both Mandarin and English.

Who can they call on for support when it comes to negotiating the correct
way of setting up a business?

This has become an important issue. When we ask immigrant business owners, especially those from Asia, they do not find local advice agencies and organizations very helpful or sympathetic. But there are a growing number of advisors, such as accountants and lawyers, who are now resident in New Zealand and who come from the same ethnic group and speak the same language. They are much more likely to seek help from co-ethnics.

Do immigrant businesses set up near each other for support?

One of the most obvious developments in the last two decades has been the development of ethnic business precincts where significant numbers of business owners from the same ethnic or immigrant group set up business in the same area. Often, in Auckland, these precincts are based around food businesses but they will also involve real estate or travel agencies, medical practices, video stores or legal firms, all run by members of the same ethnic group.

How easy is it to set up business contacts here - suppliers etc - to help make your business a success?

In the first few decades, often suppliers tend to come from the same ethnic group, especially in the case of Asian businesses. These supply arrangements are reasonably straightforward to establish. But the challenge comes when the business looks to expand its supply and customer base. Language and cultural understanding can be an issue.

How easy is it to set up business in New Zealand in comparison with Australia as an immigrant?

One of the interesting developments in the last decade has been the sense amongst immigrants, especially those from Asia, that New Zealand is easier to do business in compared to Australia. Those we interviewed give two reasons. One is that New Zealanders, while still discriminatory on occasions, are less so than Australians. The other reason is that businesses are easier to establish and run in New Zealand. The other
reason I would add is that the size of these communities are now large enough to sustain those businesses which require a co-ethnic customer base. For example, there are more than 100,000 Chinese in Auckland.

Some useful links for entrepreneurial immigrants, recommended by Mary Dawson, Chief Executive,Auckland Regional Migrant Services:

There are a number of articles and reports issued by the Integration of Migrants Programme led by Massey University.These include reports related to Chinese, South African, Korean, British and Indian business owners, looking at their experiences, issues and barriers.

To assist immigrants to set up businesses, look through the Epic website, recently set up by the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

ATEED is a council organisation that also offers support to would-be small business start-ups including migrants, offering a mentoring programme.

Information on what people need to bring into the country as business migrants, intending to set up a business, the INZ website has all the information.

A commercial website that provides good information for people interested in coming to NZ to establish businesses is at businessimmigrationnz.

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