Sydney’s most entrepreneurial community revealed

Professor Jock CollinsThe Korean community may not be the most visible of Sydney’s immigrant groups, but it is the wellspring of some of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs, according to a new report by researchers from the UTS Business School.

Based on interviews with 65 immigrant entrepreneurs in food retailing and the restaurant industry, the research is the first detailed investigation of the economic, social and cultural contribution that the Korean community makes to Australian society.

The report was officially launched on 28 May at Eastwood by NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello. Lead author Professor Jock Collins says Sydney had been the focus for Korean immigration to Australia, with settlement and business hubs forming in Strathfield, Eastwood, Campsie and the Sydney CBD.

“Korean immigrants have the highest rate of entrepreneurship in Australia – twice the Australian average,” says Collins. “The 65 entrepreneurs surveyed in Sydney were not only involved in restaurants selling Korean food, but also owned Japanese restaurants, including sushi restaurants, Chinese restaurants, cafes and takeaway food shops.""

“Their businesses are profitable and they are survivors in the Australian small business sector that is notoriously scattered with failed entrepreneurs. Many of those surveyed have had a number of businesses in Australia before their current restaurant, cafe or food bar."

“They are very innovative, planning future changes to improve their business or deciding to move into other businesses that are more profitable. Their businesses create substantial employment in Sydney."

Collins says a very positive finding was the near absence of racism in the interviewees’ experiences of living and working in Sydney.

“The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs surveyed said that they plan to spend the rest of their life in Australia. This is a strong affirmation of their experience in Australia as entrepreneurs and in Sydney as Korean immigrants."

“The biggest problem they reported was immigration restrictions affecting their ability to hire chefs and other staff for their restaurants while potentially reducing their customer base,” Collins says.

“NSW is home to more than 33,000 residents of Korean heritage and this dynamic community makes a significant contribution to the success of our state,” says Minister Dominello. “The research conducted by UTS for Sushi Bay Pty Ltd shines new light on the entrepreneurship of Korean immigrants and their role in local industry."

“The NSW Government recognises the social and economic advantages of our culturally diverse community,” says Minister Dominello. “Promoting our thriving ethnic restaurant scene is one of the ways we’re looking at utilising multiculturalism to grow economic opportunity.”

The Korean Immigrant Entrepreneurs in the Sydney Restaurant Industry report was prepared by Professor Collins and Dr Joon Shin of the Management Discipline Group in the UTS Business School and supported by funding from Sushi Bay Pty Ltd.