The Language of Business

By Kenny Smilovitch, Director of the Duman Entrepreneurship Center & Khosro Beik

Helping Immigrant Entrepreneurs Overcome Language Barriers

The Duman Entrepreneurship Center at JVS Chicago is offering a new, free class this fall that is tailored to one of the most successful categories of entrepreneurs: immigrants to the US.

“Our Language of Business training is a hybrid program aimed at the entrepreneur who needs to understand the language of business in order to expand a business outside the neighborhood where the business began,” said Kenny Smilovitch, Director of the Duman Entrepreneurship Center. “There is more opportunity if you can understand business English.”

The free class covers the fundamentals of starting and expanding a business, helping participants improve their reading, writing and math skills while they learn the language of business ownership and management. Successful participants will receive business support from the Duman Entrepreneurship Center and Loan Fund.

Perfect for English Language Learners or Adult Basic Education students who want to bridge the gap between intermediate to advanced ESL proficiency, the class meets for three hours, twice a week. “It’s a big commitment,” admits Smilovitch, “but a worthwhile investment of time.” Students need sixth- through ninth-grade English and math skills to qualify for the class, and a pre-class interview is required.

Need for Immigrant Entrepreneur Education

In Chicago and nationally, immigrants are more often entrepreneurs and more successful at starting a business than native-born citizens. The successes and businesses aren’t always small; the Kauffman Foundation reported that 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies had been started by immigrants. Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants employ more than 10 million people worldwide.

Robert Fairlie of the Small Business Administration said that one out of 10 immigrants owns a business and that immigrant-owned businesses are almost twice as likely to export their goods and services, helping the US balance of trade.

But a working knowledge of business English can be a key element in the success of an immigrant-owned business, Smilovitch said. “Business English is the key to expanding a business locally beyond the limits of the immigrant community where it originated,” he said, “and English is the preferred international language of commerce.” KhosroSmaller_edited-2Khosro Beik, who immigrated from Teheran, Iran, to Chicago 30 years ago, teaches the course and is himself an entrepreneur. He runs Café Ballou on north Western Avenue and is a videographer and location scout for films.

“Students in Duman’s Language of Business class will benefit in many ways and get skills they need to excel in this society,” said Beik. “These days you need to know how to ‘sell’ a business, and the resources we’ll provide will help them to polish their business skills and expand their knowledge of technology. They will acquire a new vocabulary and be more comfortable with people from different backgrounds.” Beik said his reason for wanting to teach the course is personal–“Someone helped me when I was an ESL student years ago. I want to return the favor.”

Networking with communities

Smilovitch said that the immediate goal of the Duman Entrepreneurship Center “is to work with local chambers of commerce to establish credibility within their communities and to identify candidates.” Beik stressed that word of mouth—the most powerful form of communication in many immigrant communities—will prove critical to the program’s success. “We need people in the communities to explain that the class will help entrepreneurs in many ways and help their ventures,” said Beik. “We can help them to develop a business plan and do other things that they may have not gotten around to.”

Have a quick question about your business idea? Already have a business plan and would like to have someone review it? Need a second opinion on your financial projections? Curious if your business is eligible for funding? We’re here to help. For more information on how the Duman Entrepreneurship Center can help you, please call 855.INFO.JVS.