Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs Europe

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

Words of the Week

It’s not easy to start one’s own business. And we need to be aware of this.  If you’re not strong (and even if you are) it can break you.  But the harder they make it for me, the more I will persist.  I will not give up!

~ my friend Theresa, in the process of setting up her own cafe {words I sure needed to hear this week ~ d*}


Filed under: Crossing Borders, Inspiration, ,

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, ,

Friday Inspiration: Notes from the 2012 European SME week Summit

Today I’d like to share a few words of wisdom from the recent European SME week.  The summit focused specifically on women’s entrepreneurship, and Nola and I attended a session that highlighted women entrepreneurs with a migrant background.  The room sizzled with energy, much of which was transmitted by the inspiring, bold speakers!  These are some of their messages and sharp observations that resonated with me:

  • We face a stack of challenges: the persistence of stereotypes that depict us as “lacking”, “passive” and/or  “outsiders”; isolation (in that we have to establish contacts and build connections from scratch); bureaucratic procedures so complicated they are almost demoralizing…to name but a few.
  • However, our strength can not be under-estimated: it takes a certain courage to move and start anew.  And  our capacity to adapt, to manage uncertainty, to learn and figure out new codes, all speak to the fact that we are resourceful.
  • We encompass multiple identities, and this is something we can use to our advantage.
  • Having mentors to learn with (not only “from”, and not in a “top-down” way) can be key in supporting and guiding us through the process of setting up and developing our businesses.
  • Sometimes we have to make mistakes.  There seems to be particular pressure on us to succeed, to prove ourselves, that makes it even more difficult to deal with failure.  But no-one is super(hu)man, and we all fail at some stage, and it’s okay.

There is, of course, more to each of these points, and still more important issues to raise.  This is just a start.  And we’d love to hear your thoughts! 



Filed under: B in Business, Crossing Borders, Inspiration, ,

*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, , ,

Cultural Capital: A Confession of Culture Shock

One of the things aren’t usually highlighted in “you-can-do-it” books, websites about women being able to do what they want is the struggle some of the women are still actually going through. Not many either talk about the specific struggles immigrant or expat women deal with. At first, I didn’t want to focus on that either because, I thought, it was more important to be inspired by success stories than read someone’s difficulties. But I do believe that we can learn more hearing “challenge” stories and help support each other more. (That’s what this blog is for too!)

So, I confess. I think I may have been suffering from culture shock. I hadn’t thought of it until someone mentioned it to me. I didn’t want to admit it at first. How could I suffer from it? I have travelled a lot, lived in different cities, studied abroad and worked in an international environment for several years. If anything, I thought I am the most cultural-diversity-aware person.

Culture Shock is said to be a personal disorientation that happens when one is immersed in an unfamiliar way of life. It is said to be an anxiety that results from losing familiar symbols and social cues. For me, it’s being lost in the new set of rules and structures and not being able to or not knowing how to react when the environment does not respond to my actions the way I expect it to or have been used to.

So there is a feeling of helplessness, lack of control, frustration (not to mention feeling stupid for not being able to communicate simple things!). And so the usual immediate effects are rejection of the current environment and regression.

I’m glad it’s only a phase.

It is said to have different phases: Honeymoon, where all new things are seen in a romanticized way; Negotiation, where the differences (language, social structures, etc.) are now causing frustrations and anxiety, making dealing with day to day life seem harder; Adjustment, where one gets accustomed and accepts the differences and learns to live with it; Finally, the Mastery Phase where one is able to “participate fully and comfortable” in the host culture.

Here is a Cultural Adjustment Curve I found via Pryor Adventures

It was important for me to realize and admit that I may have Culture Shock. I’ve been racking my brains on what has been holding me back from moving my business, business ideas forward? I had all that I need, which wasn’t much. I just needed to start contacting people and getting out there.

So what now? Admitting to have Culture Shock may be the first step to get over it. The next step is to take conscious steps to get me through the curves.

Tell us, what do you think of Culture Shock? Have you experienced it?

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

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