"After a difficult period, it was very hard for me to find a job and I also wanted a job that gives me more self-esteem and satisfaction.”
Mustapha lives in Ghent, Belgium and is the youngest in a big family. He was born in Belgium after his parents moved there from Morocco. Throughout his adolescence, he tried to find a balance between the norms and values from his home culture and the society in which he was brought up and educated. There was a huge difference between those worlds and that was his biggest challenge.
He obtained a high school degree in interactive multimedia from VISO Mariakerke and is a self-taught web and graphic designer. Mustapha had a strong desire to go on to higher education but after graduating from high school, decided to leave his parents’ house and live alone.
He is currently an Interactive Designer, but has tried many other jobs in different fields. He says “I can honestly say in hindsight that these experiences taught me valuable lessons and I acquired a lot of unique insights that I couldn’t have gained otherwise. It was also good to eliminate the things I didn’t want to do with my professional career.”
He has always known, since being in high school, that he wanted to do something on his own instead of being an employee in somebody else’s company. “I like being in charge and taking ownership of my work.” It took him almost a decade to gain enough experience, knowledge and courage to pursue his dreams. “It was an opportunity but also a necessity. After a difficult period, it was very hard for me to find a job and I also wanted a job that gives me more self-esteem and satisfaction.” Seeking the perfect career was also a risk for Mustapha, since he did not have any savings.
Mustapha’s business is called miniem and he was preparing to start it for two years before it was officially launched in April 2018. He then opened a second business with his associate in October 2018. miniem is a small digital design agency covering all sorts of work in the digital landscape, mainly through building and designing websites. They also build brand identities, create videos and provide strategy plans and marketing.
Mustapha was supported on his entrepreneurship journey by microStart, YBI’s member organisation in Belgium in partnership with the Citi Foundation. He received support in financial planning, guidance through mentoring and financing. After testing, microStart helped him to start the business and together, make a realistic financial and business plan. They also gave him coaching and advice to take over the client portfolio of another graphic designer who retired. Since receiving the support, Mustapha says that he has more self-confidence about his abilities and also better understands how to price his services, which was difficult for him at first.
The biggest challenge in setting up the business was finding a partner who had skills that were complimentary to his own, in order to provide a broader and more complete spectrum of services for his clients. However, once he did find his partner, this gave him a boost to get to where he is today.
His customers are mostly B2B-companies who are professional, but can’t afford to work with a big digital agency and customers who are willing to invest €5000 - €25,000.
“We only started a couple of months ago, so it’s a bit difficult to claim victory early in this stage. If there’s one thing I can mention as an achievement, it’s that we made a personal financial investment at the start of our business to buy an existing customer portfolio from a freelancer and we’ve been very busy fulfilling all the needs of these people and the tremendous amount of new job opportunities that came from it. I guess I can say we are right on schedule.”
Over the next few years, Mustapha wants to continue doing what he is doing, but grow in numbers, surround himself with like-minded professional freelancers who are the best at what they do and of course make a great living out of his passion. Currently he does not employ any staff, but outsources work to freelancers. He may look to employ permanent staff this year since miniem’s portfolio is growing.
Now 31 years old, Mustapha has this advice for other young entrepreneurs:
“Always be authentic. Don’t let fear rule your life and always stay humble. Trust and believe in yourself, even in the worst moments.”
microStart is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.