Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs Europe

We are Women Migrentrepreneurs. Finding our place, making our mark.

Breaking news: Reporting on the European Integration Forum (2012)

Nola and I had the privilege of attending the 8th European Integration Forum in October this year, and I am happy to announce that the report on this interesting and informative event is now available here – and well worth reading, given the light it sheds on (so-called) migrant entrepreneurship (a concept that was in itself fervently debated).

Taken at dawn on the way to the first day of the Forum!

I would like to highlight the major issues that emerged during the roundtable discussion migrant entrepreneurship in which Nola and I participated:
access is key, not only to financial resources, but also to networks and social capital;
– it is essential to increase the visibility of migrant entrepreneurs through public celebration of their achievements, and especially via traditional and (increasingly also) social media;
– support services from local authorities should focus on streamlining bureaucratic procedures, and ensuring that information and advice regarding these processes are readily available;
– building relationships of trust is vital; and
– further emphasized  was  the importance of having the right mentors to provide support and guidance, as well as to introduce would-be migrant entrepreneurs to relevant contacts and connections.

* Also note the conclusions reached across the various roundtables (which centered on matching labour needs, overcoming obstacles to integration and entrepreneurship) – to be found on page 6 of the report.)

As always, your thoughts and comments are invited! ~ d*


Filed under: Creating Opportunities, Crossing Borders, MW News, ,

*Breaking News: Meeting in Brussels!*

Nola and I will be attending the European Integration Forum next week, that will focus on ‘The contribution of migrants to economic growth in the EU’.  Nola will be a speaker at the plenary session, and we’ll both participate in roundtable discussions on migrant entrepreneurship!  We are really excited about this opportunity, not only because it presents a chance to voice what we’ve learned  with you, and to gain insights to share back here on MWN, but also because….this will be THE FIRST TIME Nola and I will actually MEET IN PERSON! 🙂

Brussels, here we come!

Filed under: Creating Opportunities, Crossing Borders, MW News, ,

The heArt of the Street: an interview with Ana and Shaun

About a year ago, I was wandering through a market in the streets of Porto’s old town, when all of a sudden I was transported to the streets of South Africa.   I had spotted a stall with the familiar colourful and intricate beadwork figures that could only be from there…  And this is how I met Ana and Shaun, the crafty couple behind Street Beadz.  Today I’d like to introduce you to them too!

images courtesy of Street Beadz

How did you get started with Street Beadz?
During our stay in South Africa and being located in Knysna, we had the privilege of seeing amazing artists at work and we fell in love with it.  Knowing that we’d shortly be returning to Portugal, we decided to join our love of art and the basic need of making a living and to start doing it here.

What would you say are the challenges you face in your work?
The first challenge was learning how to do this from scratch and the fact that the work itself is very time-consuming.  Other than that, every new day and new project present challenges in themselves; and as the seasons change we try and change our projects. As we sell mainly at markets and mostly outdoors, the weather is a big factor, then the location and the people –  you can never predict the outcome of the day. These are the challenges, but it’s also the pleasure in doing what we do.

Shaun at work!

Where do you get your inspiration?
Africa!  Mainly… But being a team as well, we draw inspiration from each other (brain storming!).  A lot of inspiration comes from developing of our skills and our abilities – this way we can create more and think bigger, outside the box!  Also the constant urge to want to improve and do something better helps.  Right now we are very inspired by home decor and our new winter line.

a window on both worlds

Street Beadz is a unique find here – the beat of Africa in the heart of Porto.  Thanks, Ana and Shaun!  ~ d*

Filed under: Creating Opportunities, Crossing Borders, Cultural Capital, , ,

Colours and Courage: an inspiring (inter)view with Stephanie Levy

This week I am excited to share the thoughts, work and travels of the lovely Stephanie Levy, an American artist and creative entrepreneur now living in Germany.  Following Stephanie’s blog, I’ve always enjoyed the transporting views from her studio and beyond, and I hope you will too!

from a Studio with a View*

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, by way of introduction?

Hi, I’m Stephanie, an American artist/illustrator who is now living in big, beautiful Berlin, Germany. I grew up in the States, but I’ve been living in Germany for the past 16 years.

I have two sweet daughters, Sophia and Lucy, ages six and four, and a German artist husband. My family keeps me busy, busy, busy, but in a positive way.

I love meeting new people and old friends, chatting over coffee and/or tea, reading in the park, walking by a river or the sea, tasting occasional decadent treats (European bakeries are incredible!), making collages, writing, photographing, and travelling in Europe.

After long stops in Heidelberg and Munich, I’m delighted to be living in Berlin again – one of my favorite cities on our planet.

How did you get started on your creative (ad)ventures?

As a child, I always loved to draw, paint, and make collages – as most children do. Somehow, I never stopped making artwork, and I studied Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico and the University of Tennessee in the US, and then I completed a Master’s degree in Art at the University of the Arts in Berlin.

After I had children and I was spending lots of time at home, I starting putting more of my artwork online and I began keeping a blog called A Studio with a View.

When my children were born, I was living in Munich – where I didn’t know many people – and so the Internet became an important way for me to connect with other creative women.

To be honest, before that time I wasn’t even interested much in the Internet. I had used email and google of course, but that was about it.

A fellow artist I studied with in Tennessee – Anna Maria Horner  – was a real inspiration for me because she has six children and still manages to create artwork and write books – and she keeps an active blog!

In hindsight, I am actually grateful that I was “forced” to start using the Internet to spread the news about my art and illustration. The Internet has opened up so many doors for me, and helped me get press and work experiences I would never have dreamed of!

Berlin by Stephanie Levy

 I was amazed at your ’12 countries’ project!  How did that come about? …And what stands out for you regarding this experience?

Thank you! Well, actually my 12 Countries in 12 Months project came about last year as I was turning 40. One afternoon, a couple of months before my birthday, I was taking a bath and feeling sorry for myself that I was getting older.

Then I thought, “Well, honey, you are going to have to stop being sad, and plan something a bit wild and out of the ordinary for your fourtieth year.”

I have always loved to travel, and since Munich lies right in the middle of Western Europe, I thought maybe I could make a series of short trips, once a month through the year.

I talked about my idea with my husband, and since he is a crazy artist too, he said, “Go for it!” So I did!

Starting in July 2011, I visited: Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, Venice, Prague, Lisbon, Barcelona, Budapest, London, Paris, Athens, and Stockholm. My trips usually lasted between 4-6 days, and I scheduled them over weekends so that my husband could stay home with my children while I was traveling.

Most people think that all of this sounds outrageously expensive, but actually I looked for inexpensive train tickets, flights, and accommodation in advance and it was much cheaper than you’d think. I didn’t completely suffer, but I am a modest traveller, and I wasn’t going for the luxury suites.

From this experience, I would tell anyone – “If you can dream it, you can do it!” It might take a bit of planning and organization and saving beforehand, but if you have dreams of travel and adventure, you should go for it too.

Where would you like to go next? 😉

All through my travels this past year, people kept telling me that I should visit Istanbul. I heard it so often, it felt like a direct message from the universe!

I’ve always, always wanted to go to Australia one day, but I haven’t been yet. And one day I’d love to travel on the Siberian Express!

What inspires you?

I love beautiful landscapes, but I also like the energy of big cities, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted to move back to Berlin.

Berlin is chaotic, dirty, loud, crazy, colorful, and vibrant. There is a unique creative sizzle in the air that I love – it reminds me a lot of New York in the States. I think you either love Berlin or you hate it – and right now I’m in love!

artwork by Stephanie Levy

Can you tell us a more about your ‘Creative Courage’ online course?

My Creative Courage e-course is about helping women around the world clarify their creative goals and giving them the tools to make their dreams a reality.

Offering this e-course has been an amazing and life-changing experience for me to be quite honest. In the course, I share my personal stories of developing an online business and living abroad,  plus I invite 12 successful creative women as interview guests each session to tell us about how they reached their creative goals as well.

Both the women I interview and the women taking the course are a true inspiration and I learn so much from both sides.

Bringing this community of women together – from over 30 countries! – has been an honor and I’m so grateful to everyone who has participated so far.

When women write to me about how they feel more confident after taking the course and are now approaching galleries, getting featured in the press, taking part in exhibitions, publishing their work online and in print media – that is the best feeling in the world!

With Creative Courage, I feel as though I am truly channelling my personal abilities into a one of a kind experience that I can now share with others around the world.

Our next session starts in September! For more information, you can have a look here.

a peek into Stephanie’s studio

What are the challenges in doing what you do where you are?

As a mother of two, it is always a challenge to juggle work and family in terms of time. However, both are important to me and I wouldn’t want to change either one.

When I am doing work I love and helping other women, I hope that I am being a positive example for my girls!

Any words of advice for fellow migrentrepreneurs?

Listen to your heart and follow its advice. Most of us know what we would love to be doing; it is a matter of organizing our lives so that it is possible. Trust your intuition.

Also, give yourself time and don’t be too hard on yourself. Honor your dreams, and don’t give up, but have patience too. Your true passions are not running away. Nurture your dreams, take care of yourself, and allow your unique and beautiful life path to develop and unfold.

Thank you for inviting me to share today, I’m very honored!

Thank YOU, Stephanie!  And the feeling is mutual!  🙂

* If you are interested in joining the Creative Courage e-course, or if you have any questions, do visit Stephanie on her blog – or feel free to email her at stephanielevy[at]

Filed under: Creating Opportunities, Crossing Borders, Inspiration, ,

Something completely different: late afternoon with Andrea

Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing the sparkling Andrea Gabilondo, a Mexican choreographer and performer who (actively since 2008) runs the performance space, La Marmita, a hidden gem near the riverside of Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.  Under the beams of La Marmita‘s red-tiled roof, to the constant sound of seagulls calling, Andrea gave us a candid and captivating peek behind the scenes…

So, Andrea, just to get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m Mexican… and since I was very little I knew I wanted to be a performer. Don’t ask me why;  I just knew it.  My mother was a painter, my father was a composer and there was always music at home.  And I would improvise even before seeing theatre or dance… It was a dream that I wanted to follow.
I went to ballet school (there was one behind our house that was very good)… so I went into dance.  And all of my live I’ve been changing styles: classical, modern, contemporary and now actually I’m doing my own style.  Sometimes it’s more dance; sometimes it’s more theater.  For example, I’m a dancer but I’m a comic dancer and that is not very common…  I tried for many years to be serious, but I could never be serious! {laughs} So it has taken this long road of different style experiences, and working in different companies in different countries to suddenly accept myself… I enjoy comedy and I’m not afraid of being “stupid” – it’s intelligent stupid, to be playful. And so I think I’m much more myself now… I’m discovering myself.
So that’s about me as a creator.

And how did you come to create La Marmita?

Ok, La Marmita …it’s a lot of things.  I was always, since very young too, in a professional company.  Always.  And even when I came to Europe.  In a way, when you are in a theater, you are like… protected.  You have everything.  You want to rehearse –  you have a rehearsal space.  You are paid…  And so I had all my life been inside a theater, and I love the theater, the darkness, the dust… I was happy there.
I left Germany when Robert [Andrea’s husband] came back to Portugal, to Porto this time and I followed him.  But what happened: I was older (I wasn’t going to audition for a company) and I thought it was time: I had for a long time been cooking ideas (I always kept a notebook of ideas), but I was too afraid of really doing it, but I had a need to do it…  So when I came to Portugal with no job, knowing no-one, but no-one (and Robert was working 24hours a day) and I was at home between four walls, getting incredibly depressed {I know that feeling! ~ d*}… That’s when I began to really work one of my ideas that I already had in Germany, and that was my first solo, the solo of the chair…
And what happened is that it was very hard for me to make contacts: I didn’t come from a school; I didn’t have friends…  And also my nationality, I’m just going to say it: I was Mexican – if I would’ve said I was from France or Sweden or Germany: “Oh, she has to be good” – but Mexico…! By now it’s different… But then I had a hard time selling my solos that I’d begun to create.  The first choreographies I would all pay from my own pocket (and Robert’s pocket)…  They were all performed in Teatro da Vilarinha, for which I’m incredibly grateful – it was the only way I could really perform, because everybody was saying no…
I rehearsed at home (some solos were a little square because it was done in a little room) and in 2000… there was this association of artists that had permission to use an old military school here in Porto called Bom Pastor, and between me and a friend that’s also a choreographer, we rented four rooms and we began to rehearse there and to do performances and I had a taste of what it is to have your own space.
And I loved the community thing.  And I said, this is what I want.
And so for three years I was looking for space…. looking and looking and I couldn’t find a suitable space…  it was very difficult.  So I decided to do my Masters in choreography in Holland.  The day I was accepted at university I told myself: ok, now I’m going to concentrate on studying… and then like magic, within a week – I found La Marmita!
It was not easy to decide: I had to study, pay rent, wouldn’t be able to run the space, I’d be writing papers… And so I called my friend in Mexico: I don’t know what to do! If I don’t take it, it’s gonna go away.  And she said: Take it.  You’re going to lose money, but if you don’t believe in this, if you don’t take it, no-one’s going to follow you.  I said: Ok!

What are the challenges of managing La Marmita?

I love to work in a group, but it’s difficult to have a team,  because I do not have sufficient funds to pay them as much as I would like.  And that’s why I feel like I have to do everything (I have to be producer, technician, performer) – I know there’s a lot of people willing to collaborate and I’m incredibly grateful, but it’s something that you can’t be asking people all the time.

So, the money is difficult, how do you sustain La Marmita financially?

Actually from all the work that Robert does and all the work that I do…all the workshops, all the work I do for myself, it never stays for me.  It goes into La Marmita.

But I think, because I’m an optimist, that once I’ve finished paying all these heavy things [renovations] – within the next eight months, also when I have a larger public, that then, I think, with all the hard work, eventually this can be self-paid.  And then, it’s just to find… I need to find someone who knows very well about management strategies, business things, because you have to think that way and an artist never thinks that way.

How do you manage this, how do you bridge the artist and the business woman?

Oh it’s horrible!  For example, if I’m producing, that day I can’t create.  If I’m going to create, I need a day just for that.  Because it’s just another side of the mind…  And I had to learn.  I bought a book, but I don’t  have time to even open it!  It’s a big book about how to learn to be a business person. Because that’s the way I have to go, to think this is not just art – it’s a project that has to survive by itself so it doesn’t close.

What keeps you going?

Passion.  I love what I do.  I suffer a lot as well, but I love what I do.  And because of this passion, I’m very stubborn.  At some things I fail and I cry and I have three days of absolute catatonic depression, that I don’t do anything, I just eat chocolate and watch films, I can watch twenty films in a day, so I don’t think about anything… And then – I wake up again! I say, no way I’ll give up!  And so I keep going.  La Marmita is still part of the same dream [I had as a child].

One last question, what is your wildest fantasy for La Marmita?

Oh, I have a lot of fantasies… {said in a silky voice ;)}
But this is a story I tell all the time – this is really a fantasy, but I imagine…
Some incredible billionaire person makes a bet with a friend and they say: Lets go to Europe, choose a country where there’s less support for the arts (that would be Portugal {knowing laughter}) and if I find certain characteristics in a group that has no [financial] support, that’s independent, that group will have support for the rest of their lives.  And so, in my imagination they come to visit and they present themselves to me as university students wanting to make a documentary and I say, ok.  And they conclude: ok, she does everything; she’s generous with her people; she performs; she creates; she pays everything; she has no support [sponsors]; she has a program all the time… They go through their list (my fantasy list).  And oneday they announce it on TV, like a big contest, and they say: And the winner is …La Marmita! {applause from the audience, i.e. me ~d*}  Then I can come back and work this space and I can have a team, a very good team, and people would have good money to work, and I can invite people to work here!

Aside from this fantasy, I still believe in my hope that if audience and performers of all kinds get together, it is possible to create a community of resources and support.  Lets get together- we’re stronger together!

Yes, lets!  Thank you so much for participating, Andrea, and for inspiring me.  The winner is La Marmita, at least in my book!

*Hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation, do join in – and if you’re in the area of Porto/ Gaia, be sure to visit the lovely La Marmita!

Filed under: Creating Opportunities, Crossing Borders, Inspiration, Roots&Routes, ,

B is for Business/ Blogging

Social media can open the door to presenting your business, talents and skills to the world – and blogging is one of the golden keys.

In addition to promoting your business, blogging can also be a way to connect not only with customers, but also with kindred spirits in your field.  What is more, you have free reign about what you want to say and how you want to say it (though you’d be wise to heed some words of caution!).  And there is of course also the option to make your blog your business by earning money through it…

However, it can take quite a bit of work to really make a blog work!   Fortunately, tips and strategies for maintaining one’s blog abound.  (Besides blogging for Migrentrepreneur Women Network, I keep three other blogs: one for my business,  another for my personal/professional interest in migration, and one for creative musings.  I’ve found that it helps to simply prioritize!)


So, while the above image is tongue-in-cheek, a blog can be a seriously effective tool for (would-be) entrepreneurs.  If you don’t already have one (or more!), here’s one last inspiring suggestion to get you started with a bang! ~ d*

Filed under: B in Business, Creating Opportunities, Interact, ,

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