Migrants starting businesses in New Zealand can surpass initial hurdles around business nuances and have success being self-employed.

The majority of migrant entrepreneurs come from the United Kingdom, South Korea and China, but more small and medium enterprises are being started by Chinese and South Korean immigrants, according to Mai Chen's Superdiversity Stocktake.

The most common problems Chinese businesses encountered were English language barriers, employing staff, obtaining finance and start-up capital, according to a 2010 study cited in the report.

Berlinda Chin, chief executive of the Office of Ethnic Communities, said New Zealand was known as one of the easiest countries to start a business.


However, the decision to start a business isn't taken lightly by migrants, she said. Some arrive with "entrepreneurial spirit" but others will decide to become self-employed after troubles with employment.

In the Superdiversity Stocktake, Ms Chen said unemployment amongst migrants was highest for recent Chinese migrants. Within five or 10 years, self-employment rates for Chinese migrants almost doubled. The trend is similar for migrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"They decide that they don't want to go back ... they've made the investment [to move to New Zealand] and think, 'how do I plant my roots here, maybe I will buy a business'," Ms Chin said.

Ethnic business communities make it easier for migrant entrepreneurs to feel supported and connected to other business owners, Ms Chin said.

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"If you look back 10 years ago visible diversity of new migrants is relatively low in the business scene. But, [today] I know five to 10 different local ethnic business councils."

The chief executive of Icehouse, a business growth centre, Andy Hamilton, said after an initial "settling in" period, migrants were well-suited to entrepreneurship.

"It takes a while for them to work out how business is done ... body language and colloquialisms [in New Zealand]."


Migrants often come from more competitive markets than New Zealand, he said, and were "hungrier, more determined and hard-working".

Smaller and medium-sized New Zealand businesses need to look at ways to get involved in Asian markets, Mr Hamilton said, and more migrant entrepreneurs have networks that can be used to enter those markets.

"The great opportunity is that many of these migrant entrepreneurs can take their business back to their home countries, and that's a massive advantage," Mr Hamilton said.

Sachie Nomura migrated to New Zealand from Japan on her own when she was 18 years old. At age 31 she left her job in the corporate world and went out on a limb to create her dream: a cooking school.

"It was important to be surrounded by business owners and business-minded people. They have a lot of wisdom to give; all you have to do as an entrepreneur is to ask."

Sachie's Kitchen, now in its sixth year of operation, was the first Asian cooking school in New Zealand, and has spawned a successful cookbook and cooking show.

Ms Nomura has a team of eight staff, all migrants.

"Different nationalities have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, Filipinos are very people-oriented, they love people and are team players. The Japanese people stick to orders," she said.

As a boss, she said, she is more sensitive and understanding of different cultures, something she learned as a teenage migrant.

"I needed to learn quickly from other cultures and observe how they behave," she said.

Migrants make successful entrepreneurs because they "have the guts" to put themselves in a new culture and environment, Ms Nomura said.

"Japanese people who come to New Zealand have a lot to contribute ... regardless of which industry they are in.

"Migrants are very independent and have got the guts to do it," Ms Nomura said.

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