Micro-enterprises are typically classified as businesses with fewer than six employees and very small amounts of financial capital. Focusing on black immigrant women’s micro-entrepreneurial ventures in Boston, this paper explores how non-economic forms of capital are crucial to the survival of micro-enterprise, in large part because of customer choices to patronize businesses they trust and to support proprietors whose identities and values they share. The richness of social and cultural capital and local information—controlled by minority immigrant women micro-entrepreneurs—can easily go undetected by mainstream lenders, training programs, and policy-makers. Other features that go unnoticed include the fact that the proprietors and patrons of micro-enterprises can often be highly skilled and educated and that innovative business moves are often embodied in already-existing processes of reciprocity and exchange. With implications for how funding can be infused into communities deeply connected to informal economy processes in U.S. cities, the paper argues for support for community-based processes of local development, economic growth, and social justice that are rooted in the communities that need them.
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