Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Management




This article was originally published as: Vershinina, N., & Barrett, R. (2011). Building the base for cross national comparisons of ethnic entrepreneurship: Understanding Polish entrepreneurs in Western Australia. Paper presented at ISBE 2011: 34th Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference. Sheffield, United Kingdom. Original article available here


Objectives: The paper accounts for the nature of Polish entrepreneurial activity in Western Australia. First, it examines it through the deployment of Bourdieu’s ‘forms of capital’ model (1983) used in explaining the entrepreneurial activity of Polish immigrants. By adopting a case study approach informed by the principal of ‘maximum variation’, the paper highlights considerable diversity within a small but significant ethnic community in Western Australia. Prior work: This paper is informed by literature dealing with forms of capital to explain ethnic entrepreneurship which points to the role of social, human, financial and cultural resources employed by migrants in their entrepreneurial activities. Approach: Case studies were undertaken with 12 firms during March 2011. In each of the businesses, detailed ethnographic interviews were conducted with business owners to establish their migration history, the motivations for self-­ employment, and journey to becoming a business owner. The interviews were transcribed and the data was analyzed using thematic content analysis. Results: This paper extends the investigators UK- based work into Australia, as it examines Polish ethnic entrepreneurship in WA not only as a function of capitals, but how these forms are used and converted within certain institutional frameworks, opportunity structures and historical contexts. Around 10% of Polish born people in Australia reside in Western Australia while some 10% of those in Australia reporting Polish ancestry live in WA. All of the entrepreneurs interviewed spent over 20 years in WA; they partly assimilated, and this gave them time to develop their businesses. Their connection to the local Polish community had fuelled the development of these firms; however, with time passing the influence of their ethnic social and cultural capital was reduced. Implications: The paper has implications for researchers and policy- makers. For researchers, the limitations of extant theoretical approaches are exposed. Conversely, the value of the forms of capital approach applied to the field of ethnic minority entrepreneurship is highlighted. Further, a neglected ethnic community is brought within the gaze of the research community. For policy- makers, an insight is gained into areas where intervention could facilitate new immigrant entrepreneurship. Value: The paper's main contributions are: an innovative deployment of models from complementary disciplines; an empirical focus on a new ethnic community.