As immigrants arrive, some look to start businesses
It’s been nearly two months since a wave of immigrants and asylum seekers arrived in the Hudson Valley from New York City. Immigrant rights advocates in and around Newburgh and Poughkeepsie rushed to provide immediate assistance. They have now shifted their focus to the long-term goals of immigrants.
A New York woman challenges new immigrants arriving in the Hudson Valley to think big by starting small, and helps them blaze a trail to get there.
What looks like a laundromat is actually a community center of sorts, especially for Emily Kerr Fennell. But she’s not here to wash her clothes. The small business coach is the founder of BRIICO, a social enterprise that helps immigrants and refugees start and grow small businesses.
What you need to know
- In the United States, starting a business is a legal way for most immigrants to make money. In most cases, all they need to do is apply for and obtain an ITIN
- Emily Kerr Fennell, entrepreneur and small business coach, supports new immigrants arriving in Newburgh from New York City by helping them launch small businesses.
- While obtaining a work permit may take several months in the United States, this is an immediate way for them to start generating income
When Kerr-Fennell heard about the new immigrants arriving in Newburgh from New York City, she said she felt called to offer support. The Laundromat is where Kingston businesses hold workshops and train.
“We reached out to community leaders and said, ‘How can we help?’ “A lot of people think that when people are new to the country, they can’t start a business,” Kerr-Fennell said. “But it’s actually an amazing path forward for a lot of people. “When they are small businesses they don’t require a lot of capital.”
In the United States, starting a business is a legal way for most immigrants to make money. In most cases, all they need to do is apply for and obtain an ITIN, which is what the IRS issues to people who can’t get a Social Security number so they can pay taxes.
Kerr Fennell learns about the backgrounds and interests of immigrants and asylum seekers, then helps them fill out the appropriate paperwork such as IRS forms to start their small business. She believes that this path is a really powerful way to gain independence.
“They come in at this amazing time in their lives, ready to work, excited to grow, excited to pay taxes, hire people, and contribute,” she said. “And we found that whatever we invest in these people, it goes back tenfold.”
The education and tools you provide to immigrants, through the help of translators, are paying off. While obtaining a work permit may take several months in the United States, this is an immediate way for them to start generating income.
She spoke about two small businesses started by some asylum seekers.
“There’s a group that started a mobile car detailing business. The idea is they don’t need a location, they don’t need to rent a storefront, they can actually go to people,” Kerr Fennell said. “There’s another group of entrepreneurs who are printing custom mugs For local businesses and souvenirs.”
Kerr-Fennell says she loves her job and feels inspired and energized every day to do her part in welcoming her new neighbors, adding that she wants immigrants to do everything by the books because she wants them to be a positive force in their communities.
“These are the new Americans who are more patriotic and passionate about the future of America and their society,” Kerr-Fennell said. “They are already contributing in big ways to their community.”
Typically, an ITIN application can cost between $300 and $600 per person. Kerr-Finell covers the cost out of her own pocket and does the work for free to newcomers.
Some funding for work in Kingston is provided by the Ulster County Economic Development Department.
(Tags for translation)Hudson Valley