Many people complain about refugees entering their countries. They believe that refugees from war-torn, impoverished countries are a drain on the economy. This is actually not the case. Though every single refugee may not contribute to the economy in uniform ways, the majority will — thanks to the life experiences they have gained. In addition to the opportunities they create for themselves, they will provide opportunities for their fellow refugees. Most will also provide jobs for the country’s citizens.

When refugees start businesses, they help stimulate the economy and provide wages for others. Many people also doubt a refugee’s ability to start and run a business in another country, but it is beyond possible. In fact, many refugees have been unwittingly trained for entrepreneurship for most of their lives. Below are five characteristics that refugees naturally have in common with entrepreneurs.

Strong work ethic

When looking at the lands that refugees come from, it is hard to ignore the desolation. There is a wide gap between developed countries and their homelands. Developed countries have the ability to purchase dinner from the local grocery or drive-thru, and can simply turn on the tap for water.

Underdeveloped countries tend to not have a grocery store on every corner if they even have one close by at all. Citizens in these countries grow up hunting and working the land to eat. They often walk miles every day for water. They have been conditioned to work hard and their lives have toughened them tremendously — two characteristics that are vital in entrepreneurship.

Resilience and determination

Refugees have been forced to flee their home countries due to war, political issues, and other life-threatening issues. They have the choice to either stay and potentially die or forge ahead to a greater life. Instead of giving up, they push forward, knowing that they must keep going to survive. They have to leave their homes, their belongings, and sometimes even family behind- a situation that many could not bounce back from.

To refugees, the threats they face are a normal part of their lives. They have learned to push through these risks every day to live and to provide a better life for their families. After living through such drastic measures on a constant basis, they are conditioned to push forward to their goal. They are unafraid to take risks that are necessary to succeed as they have been living in the midst of risk for much, or all, of their lives.

Entrepreneurs need to be resilient enough to bounce back and keep going when things are not working. Determination and tenacity are very large factors in the difference between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs. Refugees have these characteristics in spades thanks to the daily conditions they face.


Refugees generally come from countries in which they must rely on themselves to get things done. They know that to survive and to provide for their families, they must do whatever is necessary to get the job done. No one has to tell them what they need to do or wake them in the morning to tell them to get to work. They are aware of their needs and what it takes to fill them.

Being an entrepreneur means being a self-starter. While many entrepreneurs have a support system, and may even have some help to develop their business, the entrepreneur himself must start the process. He develops the idea, looks for the resources to make it happen, and makes a plan to get it done. Refugees are well-versed in getting themselves going, so starting a business in a new country is not a far fetched idea.

Innovative problem solvers

Developed countries have adopted an attitude that says if something does not work, throw it away, and that broken things are not worth the effort it takes to fix them. Refugees do not have this luxury. If they start something and it does not work, they have two options: fix it or replace it with another solution. With such limited resources, the idea of throwing something away is last on the list as they are aware the resources may not be replenished.

Due to this, they are very innovative problem solvers. Most impoverished people have an uncanny ability to creatively fill the voids in their lives. This characteristic helps refugees see gaps and know how to fill them, including market gaps. Also, many refugees are dedicated to bridging gaps between their fellow refugees and their new country’s citizens. That is no small feat, and yet they often make it happen.

Being open-minded

A very large part of the entrepreneurial spirit is being open to new things and new ideas. This is precisely how they create new businesses. As time goes on, they must remain open-minded in order to accept new industry ideas and change what is not currently working.

The very fact that refugees have fled their home country to seek a better life in a new one shows that they are open to new ideas. They may be forced to consider living in a whole new country due to external reasons. However, it is their open-mindedness that allows them to dream of what awaits and follow the opportunity.

It is normal to feel uncertain about new people. As human beings, we are made to be watchful of our surroundings, and bringing someone new into the mix can cause heightened senses until we get to know them. The important part is that we give new people the chance to disprove our preconceptions. By doing so, we will likely find ourselves pleasantly surprised at the results.