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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Photo: L’Artisan Café and Bakery
This Providence eatery, founded by immigrants, has created jobs in two Rhode Island cities. I especially love the tea at l’Artisan and the takeout food.

The idea that most immigrants take jobs away from other people in this country makes no sense to me. Some immigrants may take some jobs, but when you consider all the immigrant-founded companies, large and small, that create jobs for Americans, there is no comparison.

Here is an op-ed from an immigrant who, as an economist, has studied the issue in depth.

Dany Bahar writes at The Hill that calling the thousands of immigrants who, like him, have come here via the diversity visa lottery “the worst of the worst” shows a lack of understanding of the facts.

“I’ve been privileged enough to have accomplished many things since winning a green card, such as having completed doctoral studies at Harvard and joining a highly respected think tank. I did all of this while paying my fair share of taxes.

“My story is not unique, and, as a researcher on the economics benefits of migration, I can say that most other migrants actually are good people, work hard, pay taxes and often create jobs even at a higher rate than natives.

“Take David Tran, who in 1978 arrived in California as a refugee from Vietnam. Two years later, he founded Huy Fong, a company that produces and exports a highly popular version of Sriracha sauce.

“Huy Fong, named after the refugee vessel on which Tran came to the U.S., earns millions in sales year and employs hundreds. Tran’s tale is just one of many that illustrate how first- or second-generation migrants have shaped the U.S. economy. …

“For the most part, migrants (low- and high-skilled) compete with other incumbent migrants, not with natives. In fact, [one] study shows that, between 1990 and 2006, immigration had a small positive effect on the wages of American-born workers, as the presence of migrants encourage natives to specialize in better jobs. …

“Migrants are highly entrepreneurial and create jobs. While immigrants represent about 15 percent of the general U.S. workforce, they account for around a quarter of this country’s entrepreneurs and a quarter of inventors. …

“Immigration and diversity foster economic growth. More diverse countries perform better economically and migrants create business networks with their home countries that foster trade and investment. …

“Subsequent generations of migrants contribute considerably to the economy, thus offsetting the cost of absorbing first-time migrants. While the average fiscal burden of each immigrant is about $1,600, second- and third-generation migrants create a net positive fiscal contribution of $1,700 and $1,300, respectively.

“In addition, migrants and their families also eat, wear clothes, consume housing and all sorts of other goods and services, which contributes to economic growth.”

I know I’m biased. My daughter-in-law’s parents were immigrants from Egypt years ago, and my son-in-law is an immigrant who now holds citizenship in both the United States and his home country, Sweden. My husband and I feel lucky.

More at The Hill.

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The world needs more thinkers who are as creative and bold as Patrice Banks of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. She combined two very different skill sets into one business and made it work.

Bobby Allyn reports at radio WHYY NewsWorks, “Wearing a backwards red ball cap, skinny jeans and high-heel boots, Patrice Banks is doing her thing at the Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby.

” ‘That vroom, vroom noise you hear at a shop is called an impact gun,’ said Banks as she worked on a small blue coupe on a car lift in her garage. ‘It’s connected to compressed air, and so what that does is it removes bolts and nuts and stuff.’

“Spreading the mechanical gospel is in Banks’ blood. Her female-focused auto-shop has just opened up with the goal of empowering women to pop their hoods and get under their cars. It’s Banks’ brainchild, and she hopes the business is the start of a movement.

“Banks quit her day job as a materials engineer at DuPont to become an auto mechanic. … She was sick of being taken advantage of at local repair shops, and wanted to do something about it.

” ‘I felt like an auto-airhead. I hated all my experiences going in for an oil change, being upsold all the time for an air filter,’ she said. ‘Any time a dashboard light came on, I panicked.’

“Girls Auto Clinic is a two-in-one business: an auto repair shop and salon. While you get your car fixed by Banks and her other female mechanics, you can also get a mani, pedi or a blowout.

” ‘That’s what I wanted it to be like, a clubhouse for women, where you can just come and hang out and be around some other dope chicks,’ she explained. …

“Banks wants to take her Girls Auto Clinic concept nationwide. And she says some of her mechanics could be the ones opening up new locations.” More here.

Because combining two ideas appeals to me even more than teaching women to fix cars, I hope the new shops will be as creative. Just think of all the things that could be offered women while other women are repairing their cars: classes, baby playgroups, libraries, small business consultations — the sky’s the limit.

(Grateful to Scott for posting the Patrice Banks story on Facebook.)

Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
The Girls Auto Clinic Repair Center
Patrice Banks stands on the roof of the Girls Auto Clinic and Clutch Beauty Bar. She plans to build a roof deck for customers to enjoy.

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Photo: Mary MacDonald/Providence Business News
A rehabilitation project recently turned the old Mechanical Fabric Company mill in Providence’s West End into a live-work space for culinary entrepreneurs.
Providence can be a good place for starting a food business, partly because Johnson & Wales turns out so many good cooks, partly because the cost of a restaurant liquor license is much less than in many other cities.

And in recent years, the arrival of food incubators like Hope & Main in nearby Warren have provided a way for food entrepreneurs to get up and running without going deep into debt.

Recently, Providence Journal reporter John Hill wrote about a new food incubator, combined with living space, going into the old Mechanical Fabric Co. mill in Providence’s West End.

“In its 125 years,” writes Hill, “the old brick factory at 55 Cromwell St. has made bicycle tires, electronic components and jewelry. Now it’s getting ready to make dinner.

“The interior of the 1891 building, once filled by the clatter and thrum of steam-powered, belt-driven machines, is being gutted and rebuilt as the new home of two commercial kitchens, restaurant space and 40 efficiency apartments for young food-industry entrepreneurs.

“Federico Manaigo, whose Cromwell Ventures LLC owns the building, said the conversion is aimed at capitalizing on Providence’s reputation as a restaurant mecca. When finished, he said, the factory will be home to recent college graduates considering the restaurant business, either as chefs or owners. …

“Manaigo wants to see if he can duplicate the success of Hot Bread Kitchen, an incubator program in East Harlem in New York City. That program, without apartments, rents space to people with small ethnic food businesses who want to grow into full-fledged commercial operations. It also provides training programs and rents space to start-ups that grow from those efforts.

“The idea is to give promising food-business grads a way to stay in Providence, he said, where they can hone their skills and, when they’re ready to open a restaurant, bakery or catering company, do it in Rhode Island and hire Rhode Islanders. …

“Manaigo said he wants to see if the project can tap into sources of culinary inspiration beyond the colleges. The East Harlem incubator found success by recruiting immigrants, especially women, from the neighborhood, persuading them to share their recipes from home and start small bakeries selling their food. The West End has Middle Eastern, Asian and Central and South American restaurants in its storefronts, a sign of a diverse ethnic population Manaigo said he hopes the kitchen can work with.”

Mayor Jorge Elorza has said he likes that the project offers “a way for the city to use the colleges in the area as sources of potential new business owners and play off the restaurant business in a way that could make it even bigger in the future.

” ‘The whole food scene is a strategic strength for the city,’ he said. ‘This fits squarely within that.’ ” More here.

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Rupa Shenoy had an interesting story on WGBH radio recently. It was about local startups interested in urban farming. I wrote previously about Higher Ground Farm, situated on top of the Design Center in South Boston, but Grove Labs, with its use of LED lighting for indoor gardening, was new to me.

Shenoy says, “Some of these new entrepreneurs are thinking big. Jamie Byron and Gabe Blanchet graduated from MIT and started Grove Labs two years ago with the idea to make every living room a potential growing space. …

“Their product is a cabinet that allows people to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in the home. It’s connected to the internet, controlled by an app on your phone, and designed to make urban farming easy and engaging.

“There are a few models set up in a space at Greentown Labs in Somerville, which they share with other startups. Each wooden cabinet, with several components, is about the size of an entertainment center.

“At the heart of the cabinet system is a fish swimming in a tank. The waste from that fish is sucked into tubes and converted into nitrate fertilizer. The fertilizer is pumped around the cabinet to trays filled with brown clay pebbles. That’s where the fruits and vegetables grow, with the pebbles serving as soil. Byron says once you get the system up and running, you can harvest enough for about two small salads everyday.” More at WGBH.

For more on using fish to fertilize your produce, see my recent post about an experiment in Duluth, here.

Photo: Rupa Shenoy / WGBH News
Somerville startup Grove Labs plans to sell cabinets for growing produce in your home.

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I got started following @MassChallenge on twitter after Erik won a prize for his startup, and I still see items worth noting. Recently Mass Challenge linked to a Boston magazine article on one of the companies the business incubator helped launch. It unshrinks your ruined sweaters.

Lauren Landry reports, “Two Harvard Business School graduates are determined to unshrink your clothing.

Desiree Stolar and Nate Barbera sold out of their first 200 units of Unshrinkit on the Somerville-based product discovery site The Grommet in one hour. The patent-pending solution interacts with proteins in wool and, with the help of a cold-water rinse, causes them to revert to their original shape. …

“A shrunken cashmere sweater spawned the idea. … Around the same time [it shrank], a team of her Harvard Business School classmates were given $5,000 and told to launch a startup, as part of the school’s FIELD 3 program. … Barbera, with a background in mechanical engineering, set out to try and develop a chemically based solution capable of unshrinking wool clothing. …

“ ‘We tested out at least 20 ideas, one of which happened to work incredibly well—with no side effects and a relatively inexpensive ingredient.’ ”

The startup grew very fast and soon heard from customers that the magic potion didn’t work on very tightly woven wool.

“So, the founders launched into another round of R&D this past February to develop a new solution. Within the next month, the company plans to launch a ‘professional version’ of Unshrinkit, made with the same active ingredients, but with a few additives and a nice, fresh linen scent. …

“Now the team is focused on growing that community of supporters.

‘A lot of people don’t know they can unshrink their clothing,’ Stolar says. ‘We have to disrupt that mental state.’ ”

More here.

For relative beginners, they have a pretty professional ad.

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Here’s a story about venture capital with a do-good focus.

Sacha Pfeiffer writes at the Boston Globe, “Among entrepreneurs, there’s a dreaded place called the Valley of Death. That’s where startup companies go when they run out of funding before making money on their own, and it’s an especially common fate for clean-energy startups, like manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines. …

“But what if that early-stage, high-risk financing could instead come from philanthropists, who aren’t driven by profit? Later, traditional investors could step in and supply continued funding.

“That’s the concept behind PRIME Coalition, a year-old Cambridge nonprofit that has pooled $1 million from wealthy donors, including Hollywood actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, as seed money for its first investment: an energy storage startup company. …

“PRIME rethinks the traditional definition of charitable work and charitable giving. Its founder, 30-year-old MIT graduate Sarah Kearney, argues that companies whose products or services reduce greenhouse gases are doing a social good, just like soup kitchens and homeless shelters, so they should be able to receive philanthropic funding. In this case, the social benefits include conserving the environment and fighting climate change.

“The group searches for early-stage alternative energy companies … then locates philanthropists or socially minded for-profit investors to fund them. Those could include charitable foundations, investment offices of wealthy families, and donor-advised funds. …

“Peter Rothstein, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, said philanthropic funding ‘can make a significant dent’ in filling the need for early-stage capital for clean-tech companies.” More here.

It is not unheard of for philanthropy to put its investment dollars into companies that provide a social good. Read about the Heron Foundation’s decision to do so some years back in “Expanding Philanthropy’s Reach: Mission-Related Investing,” here.

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
PRIME Coalition founder Sarah Kearney says that companies whose products or services reduce greenhouse gases are doing a social good and should be able to receive philanthropic funding.

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Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is well known as a hub for entrepreneurship. So the school was the logical place to help start-ups offering farmers distribution services, marketing, and the like learn how to grow their business. A training was held at Babson at the end of December, and the New York Times covered it.

Stephanie Strom writes, “In spite of the surging demand for locally and regionally grown foods over the last few years, there is a chasm separating small and midsize farmers from their local markets.

“But a growing number of small businesses are springing up to provide local farmers and their customers with marketing, transportation, logistics and other services, like the Fresh Connection, a trucking business providing services to help farms around New York City make deliveries. …

“The Fair Food Network, a nonprofit organized to improve access to better food, recently held a second ‘business boot camp’ in Wellesley, Mass., for tiny companies working to increase ties between communities and local farmers, which culminated in a contest to win some $10,000. …

“For farmers selling products to a number of customers, there are so-called food hubs like Red Tomato, which connects its network of farms to existing wholesale distribution systems to make deliveries of locally grown fruits and vegetables to groceries, produce distributors, restaurants and schools in the Northeast. …

“Not all ways of improving consumer access to local and regional farm production involve distribution, however. Blue Ox Malthouse, for instance, is making malt from barley grown in Maine as a cover crop. Normally, farmers plow barley under or sell it cheaply for animal feed.  Blue Ox has given them a new and more lucrative market, though, buying up barley and turning it into malt in hopes of selling it to Maine’s thriving craft beer businesses. …

“It’s good for the farmers, who get a better price for a product they often just plowed under, and it’s good for the craft beer business, where brewers are always looking for points of distinction,” [founder Joel] Alex said.”

Read about some other great services for small farms here.

Photo: Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Mark Jaffe of the Fresh Connection picks up fresh eggs from a farmer’s stand in Union Square, Manhattan. He will make deliveries to restaurants and groceries.

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