Becoming entrepreneurs: how immigrants developed entrepreneurial identities

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the important process of how entrepreneurial identity is formed and constructed, with the perspective that entrepreneurial identity is social and dynamic, constantly shaped by various life episodes and human interactions, rather than static and unchanging. Design/methodology/approach This qualitative study comprises 30 in-depth interviews with Chinese immigrants in West Canada. These immigrants had been employed professionals under the “Skilled Workers” immigration category but later became entrepreneurs. None of the entrepreneurs in this study had prior business ownership experience, and many of them said that they had never thought about running businesses until they came to Canada. Findings A process model of entrepreneurial identity construction is presented. This paper advances the literature on entrepreneurship through the identification of three stages in the development of entrepreneurial identity: identity exploration, entrepreneurial mindsets building, and narrative development. Originality/value This study has important implications for the understanding of the exploratory and discovery mode of entrepreneurial identity construction. This study also moves away from the contextual and structural hypotheses as the sole explanations for the high rate of self-employment among immigrant entrepreneurs, and provides a useful starting point for a deeper understanding of the agency of immigrant entrepreneurs.

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