6 Tips for Undocumented Students who are Interested in Starting a Business

Building a business from the ground up is an incredible feat even without the additional challenges that can come with being an undocumented business owner. Luckily, there’s advice and information out there that can help, much of which comes from entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes. Check out these tips if you’re considering starting a business.

  1. Make the most of your student experience. Consider not only what your classes can teach you – seek out experiential learning opportunities that can help you move one step closer to your business goals. As an undocumented student, you may not be eligible for paid opportunities, but you could seek out unpaid internships and research roles. Be strategic about finding experiences that can help you acquire the skills and knowledge that would be most beneficial for your business pursuits.
  2. Know your resources. One of my own regrets in college was finding out that resources existed AFTER I had already figured out how to do something on my own. Sometimes it’s tough to know where to look for help, but resources for undocumented entrepreneurs are out there. The Center for Career Development has many of these resources included here on our website, but be sure to seek out others too. One of my favorites is #Undocuhustle by Immigrants Rising.
  3. Find a mentor. It’s helpful to have people in the business that you can turn to when you need advice, but what do you do when you’re just starting out and you don’t have any employees on your payroll? As a business owner, you’re the boss and that responsibility can come with a lot of decisions that need to be made. That’s where having a mentor can be key. A mentor should be a cheerleader who supports your growth and the growth of your company. They are someone you can go to when you need counsel or just need to bounce around some ideas. When selecting a mentor, aim to seek out someone who has gone through similar experiences or is doing the work that you hope to be doing. Starting a business is one of the few pathways to earning income that undocumented individuals can legally pursue; there are others who have been in your shoes that may be willing to share the benefits of their experience with you.
  4. Take care of your health. When you’re taking care of your health, you’re setting yourself up to have the energy and mindset needed for accomplishing your entrepreneurial goals. Get enough sleep every night, eat well, exercise regularly, and stay hydrated. Be mindful of your mental health too – consider meditating, practicing gratitude, and using positive affirmations.
  5. Build and use your support system. Starting a business can be stressful and it’s important to surround yourself with people you can trust. Maintain strong connections to your family, friends, and other supports. If you need to, expand your network and utilize resources such as support groups and healthcare professionals. And if it’s too hard to talk to someone about your experiences as an undocumented entrepreneur, consider writing it down instead. Even though you might not share it with someone else, getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper may still help you to process what you’re going through.
  6. Believe in yourself. Okay, this one sounds a little cliché, but it’s important for you to be your own biggest supporter. Believe in your skills, abilities, and dreams; and be forgiving when you make mistakes along the way. Some days will be easier than others. Do the best that you can and keep your long-term business goals top of mind. You got this!

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

By Mary Malerba
Mary Malerba Assistant Director, Alumni Relations