Over the past two years, the 7 partners of the YMCB (Young Migrant Capacity Building) pilot project created and delivered a pre-start entrepreneurship support scheme for newly arrived young migrants wishing to create their own businesses.
Implemented in Belgium (Brussels), Austria (Vienna), Italy (Florence) and the Netherlands (The Hague) at local level, around 120 prospective young migrants registered online to benefit from this combined training and mentoring support. An outreach and awareness raising campaign was organised by four National Coordinators with the support of hundreds of local organisations working with migrants who disseminated the information.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the global societal crisis threatened the project plans forcing YMCB partners to quickly adapt to this challenging new situation. Where YMCB approach was based on individual and personal support, with a lot of face-to-face activities and group interaction, the innovative blended training approach, alternating face-to-face and online support, made possible a rapid switch to online training.
The YMCB E-learning platform and its mobile application were launched during the lockdown. In total, 22 training sessions were created and delivered (7 physical & 15 online) and 125 platform accounts where created. Face-to-face mentoring became difficult too, and online mentoring was thus tested, while also expanded to allow mentors from any geographical location to provide support. Online peer-to-peer mentoring emerged as well, as a successful practice in the Netherlands. YMCB raised the bar to make its products and services highly accessible for prospective migrant entrepreneurs, beyond those registered in its programme.
Creating a business is never an easy journey, even less for young and newly arrived migrants The Covid crisis presented further challenges for many young migrants, threatening their registration and participation in the YMCB programme. Many had to stop, to totally reconsider or to postpone their business creation plans, for personal, economic or health reasons. Yet YMCB continued offering much needed assistance to a target group that is severely affected by the pandemic, and 60 of them managed to follow the whole training-mentoring path.
Around 20 businesses have been created, in sectors as varied as equitherapy, training and labour-market integration of people with disabilities, sustainable purchasing, business development for female entrepreneurs, clothing and paintings, food and catering, most of them creating social value in addition to economic growth .
Tailor-made support needed
These exceptional circumstances led to the innovative practices outlined here, but also confirmed the notion that led to the foundation of the YMCB: the vast “migrant prospective entrepreneurs” community hides a great variety of needs and profiles that requires tailor-made and individualised support.
Most newly arrived migrants do need a pre-start business support scheme to strengthen their capacities and skills before joining an existing mainstream business support programme. While others, more skilled or experienced, who had already created their own company or activities in their home countries or are settled in the host country for some years, can go faster to create their business. Supporting business creation always require analysing and taking into account the profile and needs of each prospective entrepreneur, and to design tailor-made programmes.
This needs-based approach is also fundamental to one essential step of any business creation and development: looking for finance. The YMCB adopted it when producing a unique guide on financial education, built around three fictitious migrant entrepreneurs (prototype profiles). In the guide both migrant/refugee entrepreneurs, trainers/coaches and staff of financial intermediaries can find the relevant teaching materials, tools, samples of training modules and illustrative practices.
YMCB legacy and joined efforts
YMCB support ends on April the 30th, leaving a rich legacy of useful and innovative tools and materials, accessible to all via YMCB website, which will remain live until 2026. These tools and materials helped increasing entrepreneurial capacities of many young migrants wishing to create their businesses. They can be further disseminated, used, replicated even partially, as long as they are adapted to other local contexts and prospective entrepreneurs needs. All YMCB outcomes, products and services can be found here.
Those aspiring migrant entrepreneurs who benefitted from YMCB now need further support to either complete the creation of their business, or to further adapt, develop and sustain their newly created entity. For them and for all those dreaming and willing to become entrepreneurs, a favourable and inclusive ecosystem needs to be fostered. YMCB engaged with more than 200 local organisations and projects to reinforce this local networking offering a comprehensive territorial business support offer.
Building a powerful and inclusive migrant-entrepreneurship support eco-system is the shared goal of several EU-funded projects as shown during the online final event “Meaningful Diversity” jointly organised by the four sibling projects YMCB, EUStartGees, ELYME Project, BITE- Building Integration Through Entrepreneurship and, on March 23rd, in collaboration with many others (FRESH-START, EMEN – European Migrant Entrepreneurship Network Project; MAGNET – Migrant Acceleration for Growth Network Project; and ME4Change – Migrants Empowerment for Change). All these projects make a difference and change the lives of migrants and the communities around them, as confirmed by the amazing stories and testimonials shared by migrant entrepreneurs. They are now exchanging about the best way to capitalise on all their results, products and services, in one EU level single online platform, easily and widely accessible for all.
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