37 counsellors from five European countries came together to discuss with reintegration partners from Russia and Nigeria the topic of small income-generating acitivites for vulnerable returnees as reintegeration measures. Business start-ups are in general challenging for returnees since there is usually not enough time to plan a business and to acqire local and detailed information on rent conditions, products, demand and supply from the host Country before return. Nevertheless it became clear that the better the client prepares his or her business (even just in his mind) , the better the implimentation of the business in cooperation with a local partner will happen.
In the beginning Natalie Wachowski (ZRB Südbayern) and Hanna Jenne (IOM) shared about business start-up examples which was followed by a presentation of Dr. Sänger (Migranten Ökonomie) about the business founder personality and the preparation of a business plan. Intercultural challenges regarding the business start-up preparation were discussed in working groups.
On day two the reintegration partners Roland Nwoha from Nigeria and Yeliena Poslanchik from Russia shared insights about the assitance given to returnees who start a business after return. In working groups the particpants could discuss country-specific questions and challenges in detail with the partners. The afternoon was filled with presentations about ERSO, Irma Plus by Nina Szogs (Caritas Austria), European administration standards regarding business start-ups in counries of return by Sandra Fernandez (Caritas International Belgium) as well as practical issues of reintegration assistance (e.g. Money Transfer, Taxation, burden of proof, etc.) by Dirk Van den Boom (Micado Migration).
The last day focused on counselling the returnees regarding the long-term perspective of businesses. Amongst other things microcredits and its access conditions in different countries of return as well as its benefits were discussed
In the following some main lessons learned will be shared thereafter. For detailed Information please contact the Transnational Exchange III staff.
In the pre-departure counselling:
- The Business plan can be handed out to educated returnees; for the less educated returnees it makes sense to ask them the right questions which get them thinking about the Business start-up such as What is my motivation and what can I do? What does my idea comprise and why is this unique? Who is going to buy my product / my service? Where will I work, and why this location? etc. (Dr. Sänger; www.netzwerk-iq.de spoke about the process of writing a business plan and how returnees can be supported in this process)
- Previous experience as a business owner is the best basis for a new business after return
- Fixed costs (rent, employees) should be kept as low as possible during the start-up phase; this is why the returnee should invest time in finding a cheap place to rent in a suitable location
- The client needs to be made aware that the start-up phase is usually very difficult; building a customer base takes several months as well as to break even (income vs. expenses) independent from the business idea
The counsellor should keep the following aspects in mind:
- Only motivated returnees should be supported regarding a business start-up since the efforts and the stress involving a business start-up do not measure up to the income especially in the first couple of months
- Failed business does not mean failed support; the business start-up is affected by so many different factors, which are not able to be anticipated
- Even though medical expenses may be covered for vulnerable returnees in the first months of return with the reintegration budget, it becomes the main issue of concern in the reintegration phase when the medication runs out – independent from the success or failure of the business start-up;
- 70% of the first business start-up ideas are changed after return; the counsellor should work with flexible reintegration regulations
- Returning single women who start a business will receive more respect from other family members in certain cases (independent from the success of the business e.g. Russia)
- Counsellors should discuss with the vulnerable client if he/she is ready to face the straining task of starting a business (realistic self-assessment)
- Vulnerable returnees can be encouraged to join an already existing business; this would allow the returnee to skip the most strenuous start-up phase of a business
- Due to the competitive market in most places the opening hours are quite long. This renders the remaining social network of the returnee indispensable since the parent cannot run the shop for ten or twelve hours a day and take care of the children at the same time; if the children cannot be watched by someone else, a shop with long opening hours is not realistic