Start A Business
Starting a business is a complex process, especially if you have only recently arrived in the Philadelphia area. The Welcoming Center offers numerous practical tools to assist new and emerging small business owners. From “How to Start a Business” guides to individual consultations, our experienced staff provide the hands-on assistance businesses need to succeed.
Entrepreneurs often face barriers in starting their businesses. The Welcoming Center exists to help immigrant and US-born business owners alike overcome those barriers. Because immigrant business owners are especially likely to set up shop in previously vacant storefronts and under-served neighborhoods, their success can ripple outward to revitalize entire commercial corridors, benefiting native-born Americans and newcomers alike.
While some barriers – such as limited English and cultural isolation – are unique to immigrant business owners, many others are shared by American-born merchants. We recognize that regulations and zoning requirements can be just as confusing to someone born in West Philadelphia as in Eastern Europe. Therefore, our small business services are freely available to all merchants.
We help entrepreneurs launch new ventures or expand existing businesses, and business associations build connections with immigrant store owners.
Our services include:
- Opportunity Calls monthly multilingual phone announcements
- English for Entrepreneurs classes to improve customer-service skills and community relations
- Individual Technical Assistance for new and existing business owners
- Market Research data to help merchants and business associations identify opportunities
- Business Clinics featuring small-business experts available for free consultation
- Workshops on topics such as saving on energy costs or tax preparation
- Step-by-Step Guides to explain licensing and regulatory requirements for small businesses
We also offer services to business associations and community development corporations to help them recruit and benefit from diverse membership.
For more information, contact:
215-557-2626 (Center City office)
The Welcoming Center produces a free 2-minute monthly phone announcement notifying Philadelphia-area entrepreneurs about local business news, upcoming workshops, and other nonprofit and public resources. The service is provided in the language of the entrepreneur’s choice: English, French, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, or Vietnamese. Transcripts of the messages are also available online.
Our six-week English for Entrepreneurs class is offered periodically throughout the year. With a specialized curriculum covering English vocabulary and pronunciation, customer service skills and cultural competence, the course is open to business owners and retail workers. Participants learn how to de-escalate potential conflicts, build their customer base, and improve their understanding and connection with fellow merchants, neighborhood residents, and law enforcement.
Welcoming Center experts are available to walk entrepreneurs through the process of establishing or expanding a business. Our hands-on assistance helps business owners to understand city regulations, develop a business plan, choose a location, decide on merchandise, design a store layout, create a marketing strategy, and much more.
As appropriate, we provide direct connections to our network of partners, including municipal agencies, fellow nonprofit organizations, and others.
Commercial corridors may experience an abundance of some types of businesses and a lack of others. We use empirical data from a variety of sources to assess the business mix on specific corridors. We also organize and collect neighborhood-specific research on what kinds of businesses might succeed in targeted corridors. We use this information to advise new merchants choose potential opportunities and to help business associations identify which goods and services are most needed in their community.
We offer regular business clinics, at which attendees can draw on the resources of a panel of experts in law, accounting, finance and related topics. Attendees also benefit from peer networking and contacts during the event.
Workshop topics range from marketing and business planning to community relations and safety. Our events are held at neighborhood-based locations through the region.
The Welcoming Center offers numerous publications to help business owners. They include:
- How to Start a Business guides (Grocery or Deli, Coffee Shop, Flower Shop)
- How to Start a Small Business in the suburbs (Upper Darby, Norristown)
- Merchant Safety Guide: Violence and Harassment in Your Business: What You Can Do to Protect Yourself. Available in English, Spanish, and Chinese
- Other resources
We work with business associations and community development corporations to help them increase immigrant membership and participation. We also provide advice for how to improve cross-cultural relations among residents and business owners.
These services can include:
- Identifying and recruiting new members
- Help with making meetings more culturally and linguistically accessible
- Addressing issues of common concern to local merchants
- Coordinating broad-based community meetings with law enforcement and other key stakeholders
Corridor- and neighborhood-level market research data and advice
The successful integration of immigrants into Philadelphia’s professional economy is an opportunity for robust and sustainable workforce development that the city cannot afford to squander.