This blog was co-authored by YBI and Stefania Guida, National Coordinator at MicroLab, a consortium member in M-UP and member of the YBI network.
Starting a business from scratch is a daunting task for anybody – now imagine doing it in a foreign country with a different language, unfamiliar laws and customs and a new culture. These are just some of the challenges that migrants in Europe face when starting their own business. Yet unleashing their entrepreneurial potential is vital for host societies: migrant entrepreneurs bring new knowledge and expertise, create new economic opportunities and jobs and often open new markets in their home countries.
To help migrant entrepreneurs set up thriving businesses and make those positive contributions to European societies, Youth Business International (YBI) along with SPARK and YBI members MicroLab, KIZ, and Youth Business Spain sub-member Autoocupació founded the M-UP Network for Migrant Entrepreneurs to Scale up and Grow in 2017. Now, M-UP brings together over 20 expert organisations from across Europe to help migrants navigate the challenges of turning their existing micro-business into a successful small to medium-sized enterprise (SME). Acting as an intermediary between migrants and expert organisations, M-UP partners promote best practices, share information, and offer a platform to advocate for migrant entrepreneurs’ opportunities in front of European institutions.
As part of this programme, founding partner MicroLab created the M-UP learning labs. These are online events aimed at recognising, analysing, and evaluating best practices and tools, fostering knowledge-exchange, and simulating proposal writing in line with European institutions’ criteria and objectives. So far, there have been three learning labs that encouraged fruitful exchanges between 36 member organisations, entrepreneurs, experts, and project managers from EU organisations.
What happens when a migrant doesn’t have a big network or business experience in their host country? Thanks to the learning labs, the M-UP network discovered that one of the most valuable tools to support migrant entrepreneurs is a five-step guide called ‘Entrepreneur’s journey’. This tool can help those experiencing difficulties understanding local customs and bureaucracy through the following steps:
In this first phase, the entrepreneur gets in touch with a support organisation and is then matched with a mentor who has expertise in a relevant field to discuss the initial business idea and identify the kind of support and training that is needed. Having a dedicated mentor who is well-versed in the local business landscape if particularly beneficial for migrants who live in a new environment.
In the second phase, the mentor and the entrepreneur define key aspects of the business and its economic-financial structure through workshop-type meetings. This is essential for the entrepreneur to understand the specifics of managing a business and identify concrete tools to further develop the business idea.
Building networks is essential for new businesses to thrive. They link entrepreneurs to potential sources of capital, new employees, strategic alliances, and service providers such as lawyers, accountants, and consultants. Through networks, entrepreneurs share information and assessments of markets and technology, as well as lessons learned from personal experience. However, since building networks can be particularly challenging for migrants, many M-UP members organise networking events for the young entrepreneurs they support.
M-UP member organisations offer a wide variety of support services, including:
M-UP members use various online tools for task management, communication, and knowledge sharing.
The entrepreneur’s journey is a great starting point for any organisation wanting to support migrant entrepreneurs in Europe. For more information on M-UP’s work, please visit the M-UP website.