Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs Europe

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

Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs at center stage!

Last Wednesday, thousands of women entrepreneurs from all over Europe converged at the Square in Brussels for the 2012 European SME Summit.  I’m sure you can imagine the vibe and the energy from having all these women come together.

Seeing the growing importance and potential contributions of immigrant women entrepreneurs to the European economy, a workshop was organized specifically on the topic. Five successful immigrant women entrepreneurs coming from five countries shared about the experiences and difficulties we, immigrant women, usually encounter in starting and growing our businesses.  However, just seeing all these ladies up there on stage show us that we can hurdle these obstacles and make it!

We’ll be talking about our experiences and lessons learned, and sharing the stories of some women we met over these two days in Brussels in the coming posts so hang in there! In the meantime, have a great weekend, everyone!

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Migrentrepreneur Blogroll

Hello from Cambodia, everyone!  Don’t you just love this trendy fruit? Hot Pink + Polka dots! (I’m here to explore partnerships with communities for my business venture  on ethical sourcing!!)

Back to the post…So, we are starting a Blogroll of Migrentrepreneur women in Europe here on the blog.  We thought that this way, it will be easier for all of us to reach out to each other and support each other… and help other like-minded women to find us too. If you have a blog and a business you would like us to include in the blogroll, please leave a note below or send us your link through the contact form.

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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?

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Speed Wall Post Networking Today hosted by Migrentrepreneur WomanTM

The 3-day Wall Post Networking starts today. I hope that we will see you there.

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COOs Crossing Borders*: Multicultural Networking

Networking, as it is, is already hard. Networking with people of different cultural background can be trickier albeit interesting and fruitful. Here are  8 tips to make the most of it.

1) Acknowledge diversity

I think it is important that we realize that there is diversity in business relations, communication approaches, preferences, etiquette, etc. As we are used to a certain way of doing things, so are others. Being conscious of this allows us to prepare, act accordingly and to have and open mind. (See tip #2)

2)  Come with an open mind
Others may also be unsure or even unaware of diversity and may carry on as usual which in some cases can be different from how we do things. Having an open mind allows us to avoid any misunderstanding and most importantly, to go beyond these differences and maybe even find an interesting business link.

3)  Come prepared 

If you can research or brush up on cultural sensitivity, cross-cultural communication and etiquette, do so.  And if you’re the new one, take time to learn about local business culture. This reflects professionalism as well as projects a person who is well-educated, well-traveled and has a global perspective. But more importantly, it will facilitate fruitful networking with more people.

4) Be curious, be interested

This goes beyond cross-cultural networking and is the basis of any good networking. Be genuinely interested in people and in what they do and you’ll have people taking interest in you too. But having another layer to explore, such as cultural diversity, may offer an interesting topic, or better yet, a business opportunity.

5) Be yourself but maintain professionalism all the time.

Enough said.

6) Have a set of neutral questions and topics of discussion.

In most networking tips, you’ll find the suggestion to come ready with questions and points of discussion that will help you start or continue conversations. I concur. But in addition, going back to tip #1,  I suggest that we remain conscious of cultural diversity and gauge the sensitivity of questions and topics.  (i.e. Is the question too personal? Is this a controversial topic? )

7) Go beyond language

We are mostly judged by how well we talk in a certain language (unfortunately). But in an environment where not all are native speakers, doing so would just make us miss out on potential great links. Go beyond the language skills and learn more about what the person has to offer. (See tip #4) And do the other person and yourself a favor, speak simply and slowly. If you have something smart to say, your point remains smart  even if you use simple words.

8) Be sincere

Again, self-explanatory. Reaching out to the person in a sincere way goes beyond cultural diversity. It’s about a person reaching out to another person. Who can resist that?

If you have any tips to add, you’re most welcome to send them in through the comment box. And if you would like to meet and network with other women entrepreneurs in Europe, come and join us at the Speed Wall Post Networking event we’re hosting on March 19-21. RSVP by clicking on the Join button. Hope to see you there!

*Creators of Own Opportunities (COOs) Crossing Borders is a weekly blog that talks about business ideas (other than those under Cultural Capital); discusses topics that helps us create our opportunities as well as cross barriers as immigrant women entrepreneurs. There will also be features on immigrant women who are creating or have created their opportunities. (If you want to share your story, don’t be shy!! Send me a message now!)

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Cultural Capital: A Winning Combination

Source: anthologymag.com via Nola on Pinterest

When I saw this photo, I instantly fell in love with it. I also saw “Cultural Capital” in motion. And so, I looked up the designer behind it. And was I right on target.

Catalina Estrada is a Barcelona-based designer who is born and raised in Colombia.  Her style in their words: “Catalina brings all the colors and power of Latin-American folklore and refines it with a subtle touch of European sophistication.”

I find in her a winning combination:

Cultural Capital + Personal Style +  a touch of Universality (Market Knowledge) = Success

1. Cultural Capital: Draw from your culture to offer something new.

2. Personal Style: Inject your personality and/or unique style to make it distinct.

3. Universality (Market Knowledge): Consider what your target market wants or need. Translate it to something understandable or palatable to them.

What’s your winning formula? We’d love to know.

Filed under: Cultural Capital, Inspiration, , , , , , , ,

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