Business Planning for New Americans

Chittenden County is one of the few areas of Vermont with a growing and increasingly ethnically and racially diverse population. This demographic shift is fueled in large part by the presence of an official refugee resettlement program that places immigrants from around the globe in towns such as Burlington, Winooski, and Essex. Successful adaptation to their new homes is based in large part on employment and economic opportunity for these newcomers, yet for many their dream is not to work in a factory or store but rather to own and operate their own businesses. However, being unfamiliar with their new environment and often times with the process of preparing business plans, they find it difficult to launch such ventures.

The proposed project involves setting up a program and partnership between the UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of Business Administration, and the various refugee communities through their primary service providers, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and the Association of Africans Living in Vermont.

During the Fall semester of each year, students in a Service Learning Course in the Geography Department entitled “The Immigrant Experience” would work with the service agencies to identify potential immigrant entrepreneurs within individual communities and help them to articulate a basic vision of their business idea.  During the Spring semester of each year, students in the ‘New Venture Creation’ Course in the School of Business Administration would then work with the identified immigrant entrepreneur to flesh out their vision with business plans, marketing strategies, and potential funding sources.  A community coordinator would help to ensure the smooth integration of these courses and programs (with the assistance of the UVM CUPS office).  In each semester a Service Learning TA would also support delivery of the courses.  At the end of the Spring Semester, a Venture Fair would publicize the particular projects developed through the course of the year. The Center for Research on Vermont will host an annual roundtable discussion open to the public and filmed by RETN to make Vermonters and potential investors aware of the program and proposals.  Finally, a database and website would be developed on an ongoing basis to highlight the achievements and build a database of knowledge.