What is the name of your organization?
Immigrants Rising (fiscally sponsored by Community Initiatives)
Is your organization registered as 501(c)(3) status with the IRS?
In what city, town, or region and state is your organization headquartered?Oakland, CA, USA
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address? [Select up to 2]
What is the name of your solution?
What is your solution?
ImmigrantBizHub is a unique and inclusive tech-based solution that caters to individuals facing barriers to traditional employment who want to earn a sustainable income through small business ownership.
Predicated on the fact that anyone, regardless of immigration status, can earn a living through entrepreneurship, ImmigrantBizHub is designed to make learning about financial readiness and business development enjoyable and accessible. Building off the success of Spark, our existing entrepreneurship learning platform, ImmigrantBizHub incorporates gamification concepts to create an engaging experience that fosters motivation and empowers participants to explore entrepreneurship with curiosity and confidence.
The ImmigrantBizHub curriculum is curated to meet the specific needs and challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs. We address financial readiness barriers that are often unique to this audience, including navigating credit and financial resources as immigrants. The human-centered design ensures that the content is presented in simple, jargon-free language to be easily understood by all users. What’s more, ImmigrantBizHub fosters a supportive and collaborative environment, encouraging knowledge-sharing and peer-to-peer support, so that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from each other's experiences and successes.
In recognition of the varying levels of familiarity with technology within our target population, we’ve taken measures to make the platform accessible for all users. Our design includes a clean and intuitive interface with clear navigation menus, easily identifiable icons, and a user-friendly layout. The platform is responsive and adapts seamlessly to different devices, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones, providing a consistent experience across platforms.
Film your elevator pitch.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
ImmigrantBizHub will initially leverage our existing WordPress site, allowing us to seamlessly integrate the gamified learning experience within our platform. To incorporate these elements and deliver an immersive user experience, we will partner with an existing Learning Management System (LMS) that specializes in gamification, such as Xperiencify.
Using Xperiencify or a similar LMS, we will carefully curate a gamified curriculum tailored to meet the unique needs of our target audience, particularly immigrants and undocumented individuals seeking entrepreneurial opportunities. This approach ensures that learning about financial readiness and business development is accessible, interactive, and enjoyable.
The gamified LMS will enable participants to earn points, badges, and rewards as they progress through the learning modules, fostering a sense of achievement and motivation. By incorporating interactive quizzes, simulations, and real-world scenarios, we will reinforce practical application and knowledge retention.
As we move forward, we understand the importance of flexibility and continuous improvement. While utilizing our WordPress site and an existing LMS initially, we are actively exploring the feasibility of transforming ImmigrantBizHub into a dedicated mobile application. Developing an app can further enhance user convenience and accessibility, allowing entrepreneurs to access our resources anytime, anywhere.
Throughout this process, we will engage with our diverse audience, gathering feedback and insights to refine the platform continually. We are committed to making data-driven decisions, incorporating user preferences, and ensuring that ImmigrantBizHub remains relevant and effective for our target audience.
Our ultimate goal is to create a transformative and sustainable solution that empowers immigrant entrepreneurs and individuals facing barriers to employment, encouraging them to explore entrepreneurship with confidence and seize opportunities for success. By combining our WordPress site, a gamified LMS like Xperiencify, and the potential for a future mobile application, we aim to provide an inclusive and empowering platform that catalyzes growth, resilience, and economic empowerment for all users.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Who does your solution serve, including demographics, and how does the solution impact their lives?
The lack of comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. has forced millions of undocumented individuals to live and work “in the shadows,” without work authorization, and to pursue jobs in the lowest wage sectors of the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic was especially devastating for undocumented immigrants. They have faced massive lay-offs or wage reductions in service sectors, are disproportionately lacking in health care coverage, and were deemed ineligible for federal relief programs.
In part due to being shut off out of traditional employment, undocumented immigrants have long been at the forefront of new business growth in the U.S. In more than 20 states, undocumented people boast higher rates of entrepreneurship than either legal permanent residents or citizens of the same age group. And yet, immigrant entrepreneurs are disproportionately excluded from potentially life-changing business funding and nurturance opportunities due to language barriers, lack of credit history, nontraditional educational backgrounds, limited technology fluency, and other factors.
The immigrant entrepreneurs we work with are predominantly Latinx and Asian. More than half identify as female. For 77%, their primary language is not English. When asked about personal income, 49% reported making less than $17,000 per year, 42% reported making between $17,000 - $50,000, and 10% reported making more than $50,000.
With the unique needs of this population in mind, we offer 1-on-1 consultations in English, Spanish, Korean, and Tagalog, as well as group classes to help individuals work through our curriculum and apply for grants. Our platform allows for easy navigation, progress tracking, multi-lingual support, and user feedback. Accustomed to disempowering work environments with limited leadership opportunities, ImmigrantBizHub’s asset-based framework inspires users to recognize the value of their unique skill sets, gain exposure to relevant opportunities for growth, and begin to identify as entrepreneurs.
Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.
In 2020, Immigrants Rising launched our Spark entrepreneurship learning hub, which includes accessible online learning modules that support undocumented individuals to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and financial readiness needed to start their own businesses. In 2021, we were awarded a California Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development Grant (“SEED Grant”) of $5.41 million that allowed us to disburse almost $4 million in microgrants to over 700 immigrant entrepreneurs across the state who completed the Spark curriculum.
When the pandemic hit, we saw how Spark made it possible for our participants to access services and build community while maintaining physical distance and scheduling around the constraints of their busy lives. Many of our entrepreneurs work multiple jobs, provide caretaking or financial support for family members, and regularly cope with destabilizing immigration stress, all of which necessitates programming that is user friendly and accessible. Our progress tracking feature allows users to save and return to their work as needed, receive feedback and improve their work accordingly, and easily view how far they've come in each module, which provides a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
As we enter a post-pandemic era and our statewide reach continues to expand nationwide, we’ve come to understand that an engaging platform customized to the unique needs of immigrant entrepreneurs, including a virtual community that provides support and camaraderie, is critical to their ability to not only launch their businesses, but scale them into the sustainable income sources needed for them to truly thrive over the long term.
What is your theory of change?
OUR VISION: The Future We Seek to Create
We envision an America where all people, regardless of status, can not just survive, but thrive through entrepreneurship.
PROBLEM STATEMENT: The Problem We Want to Solve
Undocumented people face systemic barriers, including barriers to employment, that disproportionately exclude them from opportunities to achieve upward economic mobility.
OUR MISSION: How We Achieve Our Vision
We empower undocumented people with the resources and support needed to earn income and economically thrive through entrepreneurship.
GUIDING VALUES: Principles & Beliefs that Guide Our Work
Our work is driven by and for undocumented people
Our work is community and relationship-based
We focus on undocumented people’s assets
We believe personal transformation fuels broader systemic change
We embrace and nurture the whole person
We are innovative and persistent
We take the long view
For over 15 years, Immigrants Rising has been providing resources and financial support to undocumented freelancers and entrepreneurs at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey. Our work is predicated on the fact that anyone, regardless of immigration status, can earn a living through entrepreneurship.
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: an established product, service, or business model that is sustainable through proven effectiveness and is poised for further growth into additional communities.
What is your organization’s stage of development?Scale: A sustainable organization actively working in several communities that is capable of continuous scaling and has a proven track record, earns revenue, and is focused on increased efficiency within its operations.
How many small businesses does your solution currently serve?
FY23 (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023):
13,000 new users on Spark, 1286 Registered, 700 Completed Training
FY24: 25,000 new users, 2,500 Registered, 1000 Completed Training
FY28: 110,000 new users, 11,000 Registered, 5000 Completed Training
How do you define the community you serve, and who are its stakeholders?
As an organization, our work is driven by and for undocumented people. We believe that those most affected by unequal access to opportunities must be at the center of designing and implementing solutions.
Since 2012, Immigrants Rising has been fiscally sponsored by Community Initiatives. We do not have a separate board but do have a Leadership Council, a 14 member advisory body consisting of key partners, funders, and community members, which meets annually. It also includes members of our Provisional Board, which was created in anticipation of our 501c3 transition in June of 2024.
Iliana Perez, our Director of Research and Entrepreneurship, is a former DACA recipient and a recognized leader in immigrant entrepreneurship. She holds a M.A. in Economics and Ph.D. in Education Policy, Evaluation and Reform. Iliana’s dissertation analyzed the determinants to pursue entrepreneurship and the economic returns of Latinx millennial undocumented entrepreneurs.
How do you build trust within the community your organization serves and among small business owners?
As an organization with programs created by and for undocumented people, we intimately understand the needs of our own community and our work is a reflection of our hard-earned learnings. Our immigrant-led team offers our participants flexibility, builds trusting relationships through regular calls and emails, and generally ascribes to a holistic, long-term approach that disavows overnight success or quick fixes.
Upon launching our SEED initiative, we formed a coalition of partner organizations to conduct outreach and ensure that diverse immigrant populations benefited. It includes Ahri Center, Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, Dreamers in Tech, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Inclusive Action for the City, La Cocina, Pilipino Workers Center, and the UndocuBlack Network. These organizations serve a wide array of ethnic groups, geographic constituencies, and industries.
In collaboration with these partners, we meet immigrant entrepreneurs where they are, establishing a model for sustainable, equitable, and holistic support.
What are your impact goals for the current year and the next five years and how will you achieve them?
Enhance Financial Readiness and Access to Capital: This year we seek to improve the financial readiness of our users by providing tailored content on navigating credit and accessing capital. In the next five years, we’ll develop personalized grant and loan guidance, and offer internal opportunities for our users to access grants and loans.
Support business growth/development: This year we’lll add modules that guide users through the process of managing their businesses past launch, including expense tracking and tax requirements. In the next five years we hope to have a thriving ecosystem that offers specialized support, including an e-commerce site to market their goods/services in a centralized place.
Scalability and National Reach: This year, we’ll expand our curriculum to include distinct levels of training (beginner, intermediate, advanced), incorporate state-specific information, and forge partnerships with relevant organizations to expand the platform's reach. Over the next five years, we aim to scale nationally, particularly reaching DACA-eligible individuals who may lose work authorization and are exploring entrepreneurship as an avenue to apply their skills and generate income.
Highlight Success Stories: When we launched Spark we debuted an eight-part digital storytelling series highlighting immigrant entrepreneurs who’d successfully completed the curriculum and received funding.This year, we partnered with a professional photographer to create an installation showcasing some of our entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry. In the coming year and beyond, we’ll expand our storytelling efforts to highlight more entrepreneurs from a wide range of backgrounds who have benefited from the platform's support.
Why are you applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards?
While the concept of ImmigrantBizHub emerged from a strategic evolution of our existing Spark site, we have successfully transformed it into a dynamic Learning Management System (LMS) over the past year and a half.
During this transformative journey, we have had the privilege of serving over 3,000 dedicated students who have engaged with our curriculum on the Spark site. This initial phase has allowed us to gather invaluable insights, feedback, and data from our users, shaping the foundation of ImmigrantBizHub.
The transition to an LMS has further amplified our impact, with 1200 users already signing up for our curriculum this year alone. This pivotal growth has provided us with a wealth of information, enabling us to refine our approach, enhance user experience, and validate the effectiveness of our model.
Now we are poised for growth and excited by the opportunities presented by this Challenge to build upon our proven success by testing the platform with a focused group of beneficiaries, ensuring its seamless functionality and relevance.
Our vision for ImmigrantBizHub is to leverage the solid foundation laid by our existing Spark site and LMS model. With a proven track record and a robust user base, we are dedicated to propelling ImmigrantBizHub into the Scale phase. This Challenge will empower us to not only expand our reach into multiple communities but also to continuously innovate, enhance efficiency, and make a lasting impact on the lives of immigrant entrepreneurs across the nation.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Financial: In order to secure the capital needed to implement all ideas, we will need to partner with philanthropy, impact investors, and government agencies that align with our values and vision. These partners can provide valuable connections, mentorship, and guidance on creating a sustainable social impact model.
Legal or regulatory: Collaborating with legal and regulatory experts who can provide guidance on compliance, intellectual property protection, and legal matters that pertain to loans and grants to individuals. These partners can ensure that we have a clear understanding of the legal implications of our program offerings.
Technology: In the near future, we'd like to collaborate with technology experts, software developers, and innovators to enhance the platform's user experience, functionality, and features. Knowing the vulnerabilities of our target population, we could benefit from advisors to help improve user data privacy and security. In the future, we would like to create a dedicated mobile app, as well as partner with AI and machine learning experts to implement advanced algorithms that personalize the experience.
Product/Service Distribution: To address potential risks associated with scalability, we would benefit from support to more efficiently collect user feedback and data insights to optimize our offerings.
Iliana Perez Director of Research & Entrepreneurship, Immigrants Rising