Immigrant Entrepreneurship In Sweden : Challenges And Opportunities Related To Business Development

Abstract: Background: At a time of continued volatility and uncertainty, there is a growing need to tackle the numerous political-social challenges and embrace the opportunities presented by demographic shifts caused by mass immigration. The migration crisis, which peaked in the European Union during 2015 and 2016, with over a million immigrants, has sparked renewed discussions among scholars, politicians, and the public about the costs and benefits of immigration. Recently, more immigrants have turned to entrepreneurship to overcome exclusion from employment and create upward social mobility and social integration. However, certain groups of immigrants, particularly refugee and female refugees, are not adequately represented and under-researched. Additionally, there is insufficient research on their business development, which remains largely unstudied. The existing literature tends to focus on specific aspects of entrepreneurial business development, disregarding the potential influence of individual and contextual factors when combined. This results in a limited understanding of the phenomenon, which leaves the field with no coherent framework or adequate knowledge outcomes. Moreover, the lack of theoretical research on specific groups of immigrant entrepreneurs is partly due to the limited empirical research and fragmented theories.Purpose: This thesis aims to contribute to the development of theory and to enrich the empirical studies regarding this diverse and heterogeneous phenomenon. Specifically, the main purpose of this thesis is to provide a comprehensive understanding of immigrant entrepreneurship, with a special focus on refugee and female entrepreneurs’ perceptions in rural and digital contexts. Ultimately, this thesis develops a conceptual framework that can be applied in future research. This conceptual framework highlights the diversity, multidimensionality, and dynamic of the immigrant entrepreneurship phenomenon.Methodology: To fulfill the overall purpose of this thesis, a mixed methods approach integrating qualitative and quantitative research methods is employed to study the immigrant entrepreneurship phenomenon using in-depth interviews and a comparative case study through surveys. This thesis examines how specific groups of immigrant entrepreneurs perceive challenges and opportunities during their business development in specific contexts at three levels. At the micro-individual level, this thesis presents case studies of female refugee entrepreneurs and refugee entrepreneurs. At the meso-business level, this thesis examines challenges and opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs in specific contexts (e.g., rural areas and the agri-food sector) and emerging technologies (e.g., digitalization). At the macro-environmental level, this thesis presents a comparative case study studying the impact of institutional differences on refugee entrepreneurship in different geographic locations, Sweden and Germany.Findings: The findings emphasize that immigrant entrepreneurs are heterogeneous groups who perceive opportunities and challenges differently at different levels during business development based on their intersectional identities. Refugee entrepreneurs strategically leverage specific contexts, such as the agri-food industry, rural areas, or the digital landscape, to start their businesses, yet these contexts pose unique challenges. Additionally, this thesis offers an understanding of the start-up, growth, and exit phases. For instance, the exit phase, often overlooked, reveals crucial insights into reasons behind exiting the business, ranging from market unfamiliarity to the desire for industry switches after gaining valuable entrepreneurial experience. Moreover, digital technologies have emerged as a valuable tool, offering semi-anonymity advantages to female immigrant entrepreneurs. Notably, differences between refugee entrepreneurs in Sweden and Germany are uncovered, with varied motivations influenced by distinct market structures, educational offerings, and government policies. This thesis concludes by proposing an integrative multilevel conceptual framework that considers immigrant entrepreneurs' perspectives within particular contexts.Implications: This thesis enriches the theoretical, empirical, and methodological foundation of immigrant entrepreneurship research by presenting an integrative, multilevel framework that combines mixed embeddedness with intersectionality. The proposed conceptual framework contributes to a better understanding of the heterogeneous nature of the immigrant entrepreneurship phenomenon via the integration of the various dimensions. In particular, the integration of intersectionality helps address the gender gap and migratory status, which is often overlooked in mixed embeddedness approaches. The conceptual framework also has practical implications for multiple stakeholders, including immigrants and host countries. It suggests policies and guidelines tailored to the intersectional identities of immigrant entrepreneurs, thereby fostering socioeconomic integration and combating exclusion, particularly among refugee and female entrepreneurs.