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Women-Owned Immigrant Businesses

Click below to read articles from the January 2019 newsletter:


Connecticut’s Women-Owned Immigrant Businesses and How They Contribute to the Community

Written by: Leah Doty

Diversity in business helps fuel success. According to a Harvard Business Review article, if diversity is not present within the workplace leadership, women are 20% less likely than Caucasian men to be endorsed for their ideas (Sherbin, 2014). This is why the increase of women in leadership roles is so crucial to growth and development.

Women-owned businessSince 1972, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 31 times. On a national scale, growth rates of women-owned businesses are at a record high. According to, Hartford women-owned businesses are growing at a higher rate than the rest of the state. Since 2007, Hartford has increased from 27,066 to 35,600 women-owned businesses (31.5 percent).

A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research on immigrant entrepreneurship reveals that 45 percent of immigrant business owners were female in 2012. According to the National Women's Business Council (NWBC), women immigrants may have a natural connection with entrepreneurship skills because of the risk they had to take when migrating to the United States. This risk could fuel the need to succeed in America.

A George Mason study found that immigrant women entrepreneurs have made huge strides since 1980. In 1980, there were only 180,000 immigrant women-run businesses in the US; in 2015 that number rose to 1.3 million (NWBC, 2015).

Gleyann Fontanez is the owner of one of the 112,500 woman-owned businesses in Connecticut. She moved to Connecticut as a teenager from Puerto Rico and didn’t speak English. She has since opened a clothing business in Hartford called Latinas Fashion. “I always wanted to create something for myself and I like being my own boss. I’m independent and a fighter, an entrepreneur at heart. A lot of my customers have issues with self-image and I love to help them feel better about themselves.” The drive to be independent and fight is a key characteristic of many immigrant entrepreneurs.

Melody Do is another female immigrant entrepreneur and the founder and owner of Kara Enterprise LLC in Hartford. Melody's family came to the United States from Vietnam when she was nine years old. “Time is valuable and the freedom to control that is so important. Immigrant women come to this country in search of freedom. When you work for someone else, they control your time, which means you don’t really have freedom. Small business ownership offers a great opportunity for immigrant women.”

New American EconomyAccording to the most recent census, 14 percent of Connecticut residents are foreign born. They make up 16.8% of the state’s working population. Women-immigrant-owned businesses like Gleyann’s and Melody’s are paving a path for others to follow. The diversity in business owners is not only beneficial for the individual business, but also helps feed Connecticut's economy.


CBIA. (2017). How Immigrants Impact the State's Economy | Economy CT News. (n.d.).

NWBC. (2015, August 12). Despite Challenges Immigrant Women Are Experiencing Amazing Entrepreneurial Success.

Sherbin, S. A. (2014, August 01). How Diversity Can Drive Innovation.

State of Women-Owned Businesses Report

What You Need to Know About Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs. (2018, May 21).


Immigrants in Business in the US

Written by: Leah Doty

Founder of Google, Sergey Brin, once had to flee from the Soviet Union; Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo, emigrated from Taiwan at the age of 10; CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, emigrated from India. Now they are Fortune 500 CEOs, creating powerhouse businesses that rule the industry. The list goes on as 40% of Fortune 500 businesses are founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. These companies have generated more than $4.8 trillion in revenue and employed 18.9 million people around the globe.

Many of the companies on the seemingly unachievable Fortune 500 list started in a garage with founders working multiple other jobs to make their dreams a reality. Others had to fight their way to the top, proving themselves as valuable. Whether they started the company in their dorm rooms like Brin or had to prove themselves to become CEO like Indra Nooyi, they exhibited hard work and outstanding entrepreneurial skills. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Dropbox, AOL, Airbnb, Netflix, and Yahoo are among the companies advocating for a US entrepreneur visa as immigrants to the US are twice as likely to start a business than native-born Americans. The Obama administration proposed a visa that would allow immigrant entrepreneurs to come into the United States if specific criteria were met. However, under the Trump administration this visa was put on hold (Pilon, 2017).

Indra Nooyi was named CEO of PepsiCo in 2006, when there were less than a dozen women at the top of Fortune 500 companies (Sherman, 2018). Ms. Nooyi was born in Madras, which is now Chennai, in the southern part of India. She was CEO of PepsiCo for 12 years, recently leaving her position in 2018. Women currently hold 24 CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. The list includes only three immigrant women: Geisha Williams of PG&E, Safra Catz of Oracle, and Lisa Su of Advanced Micro Devices (Zarya, 2015). The majority of CEOs among the Fortune 500 list are white males. As more diversity is incorporated into the companies, it is hopeful that the CEO positions will also become more diverse.


Accelerating the Future of Women Entrepreneurs

Olsen, G. (2017, December 27). Garage to Fortune 500 Series: Starbucks.

Pilon, M. (2017, February 21). Entrepreneurs Are Being Deported -- And They Might Be at the Center of America's Coming Immigration Fight.

Sherman, N. (2018, August 06). Indra Nooyi: 'Everybody's watching you'.

Zarya, V. (2015, November 12). Why Immigrant Women Make Great Entrepreneurs. (n.d.).