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The EUStartGees Journey towards the end: not a goodbye though!

We at the EUStartGees Programme are so proud of our 2 years journey! It was 24 months full of commitment to design and launch a support programme targeting refugees and young migrants, offering specialised training and mentoring to this audience.

Five work packages have been conducted. From detecting and analyzing the obstacles and ensuring the projects’ financial sustainability, to designing and delivering the most adaptable training programme and finding the best match tutors for them, measuring the achieved results, validating it and doing the cross-border cooperation. Guaranteeing sound technical and financial management and coordination of the project and collaboration with the consortium partners.

After months of idea evaluating, planning, implementing, the EUStartGees Programme Partners were excited to close this chapter and bring our testimonials, results, stories, and lessons learned, specially with the second year of implementation directly affected by the COVID-19. Some inspired us, some made us teared up, but every of the stories made us smile. Reminded us in 2019 when everything is still just an idea, how much it had grown, and how many lives had changed.

We knew that we were ready to spread out our voices in the final event specially prepared for this purpose: the Meaningful Diversity Conference.

Meaningful Diversity Conference: the celebration of the outcomes from the EU co-financed Migrant-Entrepreneurship Support Programs and brave stories shared (EUStartGees Programme included)!

The Meaningful Diversity Conference, was virtually held on March 23, 2021, a full-day business event gathering such amazing community: EUStartGees Programme ; ELYME Project; FRESH-START, YMCB Young Migrants Capacity Building Project; EMEN - European Migrant Entrepreneurship Network Project; BITE- Building Integration Through Entrepreneurship Project; MAGNET - Migrant Acceleration for Growth Network Project; ME4Change - Migrants Empowerment for Change. The aim of the conference was to showcase the results achieved by those EU co-financed projects in the field of migrant entrepreneurship support, the success stories from migrant and refugee entrepreneurs, and from the migrants and refugees support organisations across the EU.

Starting a business is a difficult affair, especially for migrants and refugees. Without proper support and resources, it is nearly impossible. The EUStartGees and the other EU Migrant Support participating projects are in the mission to support migrants and refugees on their personal and professional growth path. It was a great opportunity for the EUStartGees Programme to gather with the most innovative projects on migrant entrepreneurship, and show to the audience the outcomes of two years of intensive work. Our project partners were ready to tell the EUStartGees testimonials and present the key points of our brave entrepreneurial journey!

The conference started with a warm welcome from the EU Project’s coordinators, introducing themselves,and from Ms. Birgit Weidel, Head of Unit GROW.H. at the European Commission, giving a snapshot of migrant entrepreneurship nowadays. Ms. Weidel highlighted the importance of finding synergies between projects. According to Ms Weidel, The entrepreneurial skills are the key issue, it is constant innovation and also resilience to an unexpected challenge. Entrepreneurs are from different backgrounds. So we need to take care of the entrepreneurs, and support migrants. Now we have several organizations providing the support, it would benefit not only the migrants but the local hosting country. For this we need to create a strong community and network that will continue to provide educational and training programmes.

And the EUStartGees Brave Entrepreneurs Seriesjoined the scene! Carolina de Novaes Uchôa, Network and Communication Specialist at X23, presented the awareness raising campaign designed by the EUStartGees Team. Carolina explained the format and shared the purpose of the campaign in sharing stories from our times about brave entrepreneurs who created great companies and also stories of people who helped them in the process of doing so. The purpose of our series was to share with the world the positivity that comes out of our project and it is the starting point of a media platform that we will be launching and sustaining beyond the EU co-funding. Episode #7, featuring Helena Moço Lopes, was streamed!

Then our moderator Jennifer Baker called the first protagonists group: the migrant entrepreneurs! Our brave participants - Aida Aicha Bodian, Salam Kanhoush, Hervè Papa Latyr, Obada Otabashi, shared with us their stories and entrepreneurial journey.

Aida Aicha Bodian from Nebua World, sharing with us the vision of her brand- empowering black women, the message was made into a beautiful video, touched the participants with a strong and meaningful message.

Salam Kanhoush, from Syria, his life was paused due to the war in Syria. He escaped to Kassala, Sudan. For the last five years, he built a strong relationship with the community in Sudan. He wants to change the perspective, and tell the world refugees are not only problems, but could also be a solution. In fact, he just finished helping an italian NGO for providing drinkable water to the Ethiopian refugees. It was truly inspiring and we witnessed the strength and resilience of the human race.

Hervè Papa Latyr, founded CASA Sankara Associazione Ghetto Out, an association for migrants, managed by migrants, to welcome, support, and coach them

We were honoured to have the speech of the certified Global Happiness Coach, Award-Winning Professor, and founder of the WITH Warriors Kyla Mitsunaga. She conducted a meaningful networking session, underlining the importance of finding meaning in each life journey - and this is what we were doing on that day: finding a meaning for migrant entrepreneurship. Kyla proposed a breakout room to the audience, dividing the participants into groups of four, giving participants the opportunity to exchange information and meaningful conversations, just like we used to do in physical events. The participants had around 10 minutes for networking and then the session ended with all yelling “MEANINGFUL” virtually together!

After being lifted by Kyla’s high energy, our project partners gave us a speech about their background and outcome. The EUStartGees Project Manager, Davide Carminati, shared with the audience more about our programme and the main outcomes Davide explained that EUStartGees programme was structured in three main blocks with the aim to help migrants and refugees in their professional and personal growth in Italy, Spain, Austria and Finland:

  1. CONNECT - a moment to connect with the beneficiaries of the programme, consisting in an assessment of the initial idea and motivation;

  2. THINK AND DESIGN - when we delivered the training, with the scope to improve the entrepreneurial skills of our migrapreneurs, an incubation process and validation of the main product.

  3. GROW - in this phase the EUStartGees delivered the mentoring, preparing the participants to pitch in front of the juries during Demo Day, to boost their businesses.

We are happy to sum up that around the four implemented countries, the main outcomes of EUStartGees Programme were: 16 training/coaching cycles delivered; 202 migrant/refugees involved; 45 startups pitching!

The floor was then of the Project Coordinator of EUStartGees – Pietro Maria Farneti, Manager Director at ERIS Foundation, who gave a short speech about our programme. Pietro highlighted that ERIS Foundation was engaged for a long time with the integration of migrants in the north italy, particularly in Milan. The Foundation started with a few dedicated programmes targeting migrants with the support of key organisations in the local level. Pietro said that the idea was simple and easy: to enter in direct contact with migrants and then deliver a 1to1 approach to help them on the integration in the country.

Then Julie Murat, COO and Co-Founder of Bridge for Billions joined us to give a speech about “Being an Entrepreneur today”. Julie call attention to the difficulties faced by migrants towards the business path: “It’s really hard for migrapreneur to start their business, it’s like crossing a dangerous bridge.” Indeed, It’s very difficult to kick start one’s entrepreneurial journey especially in a foreign land. It has become ever more important to ensure the migrants and refugees have the professional assistance and resources to start their business.

The upcoming part of the conference brought the voices from migrant entrepreneurship co-founded projects and had the purpose to create Parallel Sessions, with four topics for the participants to choose upon. The topics included- Entrepreneurial Journey: Skills and Role Model; Virtual resource centers (or base) supporting migrant entrepreneurs community; Diverse methods and approaches: the same aim!; The importance of the Migrant Business Associations during the challenging times. The parallel session was really insightful, our speakers and participants exchanged new insights and views. After the wrapped up and the Covid-19 talk, BEST Project, co-financed by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, talked about their actions, sharing their innovative solutions and results in the field of migrant support.

The afternoon session kicked off with a second round of the beneficiaries' testimonials - Diógenes Díaz Osorio , Azra Bekic, Hakan Aycicek. Diogenes, who participated in Startup Refugees, is from Colombia. He moved to Finland and started up a business idea. He wants to connect tourists to the local people. Azra Bekic, participated in YMCB, is supporting women to develop leadership skills and regain their power-assisted by horses in the middle of nature. Hakan Aycicek, a testimonial from FRESH-START, is from Turkey. He shared with us his emotional but powerful story of how he and his family escaped from Turkey and sought a fresh start in Europe. They shared with us their moving and inspiring story. It takes so much courage and resilience to overcome the obstacles they had been through! We are so inspired and proud of the participants!

Before closing up the conference, the stage went to our participating projects again to share great initiatives in the field of migrant entrepreneurship.

The ELYME Project talked about “A powerful tool for the ecosystem: the MEHUB Platform, presented by Paolo Montemurro, the ELYME Project Coordinator. The M.E.HUB, a collaborative platform managed by ELYME partners, and it is a European hub supporting the entrepreneurial development of migrant entrepreneurs and organisations working with refugees and people from migrant backgrounds. The mission is to create a powerful community in the field of migrant entrepreneurship, aiming to support their entrepreneurial capabilities, develop their business and get support from organisations.

Then Armelle Ledan, Project Coordinator at the YMCB Project discussed the “E-resource base platform”. Armelle said that the YMCB developed an e-learning platform for all interested participants in the project to deliver the training and mentoring programmes, and now the platform is open and free-of-charge for everyone interested. The platform is available in English, Dutch, French and Italian, and it’s full of special content for those who are interested to develop or increase entrepreneurial skills.

The BITE Project Coordinator Davide Libralesso presented insights for “Diaspora Business: linking ventures with impact investors”. Davide said that the BITE project has developed a set of resources on migrant entrepreneurship to replicate the BITE approach, such as handbook, infographics, and webinars. The features are addressed to local authority administrators, a civil servant, or a CSOs representative that is engaged in developing local economies by supporting talents and innovative business ideas.

Last but not least, Marika Mazzi Boém, the Innovation Strategy Director at X23 and EU Project Coordinator of ME4Change talked with us about “Creating the Migrant Entrepreneurship ecosystem: the ME4CHANGE Coalition and the Barcelona Declaration”.

The ME4Change Coalition is an initiative working with key business actors to drive migrant ambitions towards an entrepreneurial path, providing support schemes on how to establish and grow their business in Europe. They believe that innovative ideas deserve a chance to reach their full potential, wanting to catalyze the creation of sustainable and globally competitive enterprises founded by brave entrepreneurs.

Definitely, we can see great and innovative outcomes from the EU co-funded projects, being important steps in continuing to build a powerful migrant-entrepreneurship support ecosystem.

Great stories, business growth tips, and keys to success when working with migrants and refugee populations, in a non-competitive and supportive digital environment. A warmest thank you to all those who joined the Meaningful Diversity Conference. It was a great opportunity to gather important organisations and individuals sharing the same purpose. We are grateful and inspired to meet so many brilliant migrants/refugees/EU newcomers making the difference; and we are equally grateful to collaborate with other EU Consortium Partners of ELYME, FRESH START, ME4Change, YMCB, BITE , EMEN , MAGNET, and MEGA to prepare and successfully close such event. After hearing the insights and the stories of our migrapreneurs and all the project partners, we are ready to continue our mission in providing support and inspiring the migrant entrepreneurship field with a lot of synergies around the world.

If you missed the Meaningful Diversity Conference, don’t worry! Watch now the full event!

Enjoy and feel free to reach out if you want to make a difference with us!

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