They come to Canada with dreams of starting a business in their new home, but many immigrants who settle in Ontario are facing significant barriers in making those dreams a reality.

That's according to a study released by Ryerson University's Diversity Institute.

"Many of them are very similar that all entrepreneurs face, so navigating the systems, defining the market, accessing the funding, but we do see immigrants report more challenges than Canadian born entrepreneurs," said Wendy Cukier, who authored the report. 

Cukier said that many of the services and supports available for entrepreneurs don't really have a diversity lens and address the needs of immigrants or women and indigenous people. 

"Canadian born entrepreneurs are more than two times as likely to access government grants," she said. "And partly that is not an eligibility issue, it's a question of how do you navigate all of the systems because there are lots of services available but they are very fragmented."

The issue is definitely not because a lack of desire. The study showed that 73 per cent of new Canadians are attracted to entrepreneurship as a desirable career choice, but 54 per cent said they had difficulty finding regular employment. On top of that, 31 per cent said they had difficulty having their credentials recognized. 

This is not the same for Canadian-born entrepreneurs.

"A lot of Canadians go into entrepreneurship because they don't like their jobs, that's not the case of immigrants," said Cukier. 

The first-of-its-kind study was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. The research combined a review of previous research, a survey of more than 200 immigrant and Canadian born entrepreneurs, a review of services and interviews with entrepreneurship organizations and community groups in Mississauga, Niagara, Picton and Toronto.

The immigrant entrepreneurs who participated in the study had high levels of education and more than one third were women.

"We have to I think really calibrate our thinking of what entrepreneurs are bringing not just what they need," said Cukier, adding that many of these newcomers bring an in-depth knowledge of international markets. She said that better business partnerships could be a "win-win" for all business owners — born in Canada or not.

Ayman Eid

About one third of new Canadians said they have difficulty having their credentials recognized in Canada. (Meg Roberts)

"Linking them up with Canadian-born entrepreneurs lets them share what they know about how to go global and also helps them develop more understanding of the nuances and peculiarities of Canadian markets."

Some recommendations from the study include having better diversity accountability in government-funded services, and more multilingual supports.