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Personal View: Akron's Immigrant Entrepreneurs Need a Help Group

By Heather Roszczyk, Fund for Our Economic Future

Through the International Institute of Akron (IIA), I recently had the opportunity to meet with Sima, an Iranian refugee who has made her home in Akron.

Over tea in Sima's living room, we learned about the intricate, stunningly beautiful clay flowers she makes by hand. The details of each flower are exquisite, down to delicate veins carved into the underside of each petal.

Sima had some success selling individual roses last Valentine's Day and was interested in growing the hobby into a business. But when we suggested she create business cards to attach to her product , Sima was overwhelmed.

What should be included on the card? What should it look like? Who could design it? Where should she print them?

For Sima, an invisible framework — basic knowledge and understanding of American systems — was missing.

These issues are not insurmountable, of course. The very tea to which I refer was part of a pilot project managed by IIA and funded by the Fund for Our Economic Future aimed at addressing the common barriers — transportation, language, cultural — that foreign-born entrepreneurs face. But this experience with Sima helped me understand the depth of the challenge.

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