In today’s globalized world, being a foreign entrepreneur is becoming an increasingly popular phenomenon. Subsequently, there’s a growing body of academic and non-academic material revolving around migrant entrepreneurship. 

In this article, I’ll seek to highlight a number of realities about being a foreign entrepreneur, building on my personal experience. 

Firstly, allow me to state that being a foreign entrepreneur is not “all sunshine and rainbows” (as the famous Rocky Balboa once said). It carries an enormous amount of risk and can be a quite dark life path (anybody who says otherwise either lacks the knowledge or is lying to you).

My purpose in writing this guide is to provide you with a “no BS” and informative piece of advice that can hopefully enable you to consider every aspect of this journey before embarking on it.

There’s a good chance your mental health will suffer 

Let’s face it: there’s a reason why the majority of people don’t start their own businesses. First and foremost, there’s a huge amount of risk involved with no guarantee for any return. This factor alone is enough to make entrepreneurship a non-option for most. 

But assuming that you’ll proceed regardless of the aforementioned, the constant risk and uncertainty are bound to affect your mental health. 

Immigration rules can be rigid 

This is a broad observation, and it highly depends on the country that you migrate to. Nevertheless, you’ll be bound by some form of immigration legislation, and may have to meet specific milestones for extending your stay in the host country. 

As mentioned earlier, entrepreneurship is unpredictable in itself, let alone having to meet pre-defined goals. The worse part is that you may invest time and money, and still not meet those objectives. Not only are you jeopardizing your most valuable assets, time and money, but you may even have to leave the place that you deemed to be your new home (worst-case scenario, of course). 

Of course, as I mentioned, this is objective given that different countries have varying rules around their entrepreneur/startup visas. 

Personally, I went through the foreign entrepreneur journey via the UK’s former Tier 1 GE and Entrepreneur visas, and “easy” is not a word I would use to describe that path. 

Prepare for (a lot of) rejections

I am generally under the assumption that most people associate rejection with employment applications, or their social and romantic lives. 

Hence, let me elaborate: it’s highly likely that you will have to endure a considerable amount of rejections. Whether it’s from prospective clients, customers, or funders such as VCs and angel investors, you will need to be ready for it. 

You may face a scarcity of resources

Being a migrant may limit some of the business resources that are available to you. For instance, a native person may have access to business loans made available by banks. 

However, the same option may be unavailable to you due to you having a time limit on your stay. Again, this is a general and objective observation. 

It is best practice to be prepared for minimal resources and emphasize self-sufficiency. 

You may be seen as a “cash cow”

This is something which I personally experienced in the early days, and it did irritate me a great deal. 

It was perhaps partly true, as I did invest a substantial amount of money in order to obtain my visa. But the unsettling aspect was the sense of exploitation that I felt when I sought to outsource the company’s projects. 

To give you an example: I started my company, StudyFlats, as a solo non-technical founder. As I had no idea how websites worked, I obtained some quotes for the website to be coded. Some of these quotes were in the region of tens of 1000s of pounds, for a simple WordPress website. Needless to say, I eventually did it myself at a cost of £300. This is just one instance to demonstrate how fast you’ll lose your money if you lack the right skills and knowledge. 

Being a foreign entrepreneur is a life-changing experience

Lastly, I will say that being a migrant entrepreneur is an experience that will shift your perspective and life direction indefinitely. Once you overcome the obstacles and grow your concept, you will realize your true competencies as a person, which you may have never imagined.  

I hope this guide has given you an idea about what to expect in the bittersweet journey of migrant entrepreneurship. If you require any consultation from someone who’s been there and done it before, ping me for a chat here

About My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I did so by obtaining an endorsement from Newcastle University under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme (similar to the current Start-Up Visa). Subsequently, I obtained a further 3-year Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (which was replaced by the Innovator Visa). I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four, and also obtained my Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) in the UK. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.