Download the full-sized PDF of Becoming an entrepreneur: How Chinese Immigrants in Canada Created an Entrepreneurial IdentityDownload the full-sized PDF



Permanent link (DOI):


Export to: EndNote  |  Zotero  |  Mendeley


This file is in the following communities:

Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of


This file is in the following collections:

Theses and Dissertations

Becoming an entrepreneur: How Chinese Immigrants in Canada Created an Entrepreneurial Identity Open Access


Other title
Immigrant entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurial identity
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Supervisor and department
Reay, Trish (Business)
Examining committee member and department
Reay, Trish (Business)
Derwing, Tracey (Education)
Steier, Lloyd (Business)
Hughes, Karen (Sociology)
Reuber, Rebecca (Business)
Field, Richard (Business)
Faculty of Business
Strategic Management and Organization
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
My study attempts to answer important questions about how individuals develop an entrepreneurial identity, and what the role of family is during the identity transition process. To do this, I combined three streams of literature: identity theory, family capital theory, and the immigrant entrepreneurship literature. My research setting was Chinese immigrant entrepreneurs in Alberta, Canada. I employed a qualitative methodology that relied on in-depth interviews with 30 Chinese immigrant entrepreneurs discussing their stories of business start-ups. The data were then analyzed using a grounded theory approach. My analysis showed that the immigrant entrepreneurs went through three stages to construct their new identities: exploring possible selves, crafting a new identity, and consolidating identity through self-narratives. My analysis also showed that family plays an important role at each stage of identity transition. At the exploration stage, the family provides emotional support and companionship, shows belief in the entrepreneurs, and encourages the entrepreneurs to exploit their potential. At later stages, family capital is more instrumental, reducing the need for external resources. Furthermore, I found that family capital is inherently paradoxical; the interviewees revealed that family could contribute both positively and negatively to business ventures. That is, family ties that were once supportive to the business could easily transition into a hindrance; and likewise, family hindrance also had the potential to turn into family support. I then identified five strategies that immigrant entrepreneurs have adopted to manage the paradox. My study contributes to the identity work literature by delineating the process of exploratory identity construction and advancing the understandings of entrepreneurial identity construction. It also contributes to family capital theory by highlighting the significance of family in facilitating identity transition, and revealing the sometimes detrimental effect of family capital. Finally, in an effort to move away from contextual and structural hypotheses as sole explanations for the high rate of self-employment among immigrant entrepreneurs, my study draws attention to the micro-level behaviour of immigrant entrepreneurs, and provides a useful starting point from which we can deepen our understanding of the agency of immigrant entrepreneurship. Implications for policy and practice are also discussed.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication

File Details

Date Uploaded
Date Modified
Audit Status
Audits have not yet been run on this file.
File format: pdf (PDF/A)
Mime type: application/pdf
File size: 1470761
Last modified: 2015:10:12 11:23:25-06:00
Filename: Zhang_Zhen_201407_PhD.pdf
Original checksum: febe9983bef3a042f2408ab9fef9a29d
Activity of users you follow
User Activity Date