ALMA: Access to Language Methods for Increasing Migrants' Abilities to Start Their Own Business

alma: Access to  Language Methods

ALMA: Access to Language Methods for Increasing Migrants’ Abilities to Start Their Own Business is a European cooperation project aimed at stimulating migrants to begin a new business, to inspire and provide them with practical guidelines in order to start and run a successful company within a new cultural and linguistic context.

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Role Models' Guide / Profiles

The guide introduces active entrepreneurs with migrant background who have become successful thanks to their language and intercultural competences in the partner countries. Promoting real people with real stories, the project provides clear picture on what knowledge and skills are important and needed to be improved and what steps migrants should take towards establishing and running an own company.

See profile in: English Swedish
Photo of Ahmad Shalak

Ahmad Shalak

My name is Ahmad Shalak. I´m originally from Syria. I am 35 years old and I am a restaurant owner in Söderhamn, Sweden.

I worked for Gucci, Chanel, La Martina (2011-2014) when me and my family lived in Dubai. I´m originally from Syria but moved to Dubai in 2004. They were very successful companies with high avenges that gave me the inspiration to open my own business in Dubai. I started a perfume company in 2013. I was still active at La Martina at the same time I started our own perfume company; Shay Oud and we had a laboratory. People could make their own perfume.

My own company went well but it was a lot to do. My work at La Martina was also very demanding. In the same time the situation for foreigners from Syria got worse. The roles to get a work permit became much harder than before. I started then to leave Dubai and get my own business in Sweden. I had colleges from La Martina who recommended me to come to Sweden.

July 2014, I left my wife and kids in Dubai and I started my journey to Sweden. It was a hard journey, but I came to Malmö. I tried to book a ticket to Söderhamn, the city my friends recommended, but people were talking another language than I expected; SWEDISH! OMG!

I wanted to start my own perfume company here too, but I had to learn the language first. I studied Swedish for six months. I studied 12 hours every day. My Swedish got better, and I lived in one of the migrations apartments. I started to make friends. At that time, I met Mats, the owner of Eat and meet.

To network costed me a lot here. I spent all my time at Eat and meet. I wanted to meet people. Swedes are shy and I had the Circle networking in my mind. Circle networking: You meet 5 people and every person has 5 persons you can later meet. Soon you have a big network. Then it is very important to choose the right contact. While we waited for the residence permit, we had to save. Mats with his contacts helpt us to find a house. And we finally bought that red house that we always dreamt about. Our friend warned us from buying a house. You will lose the housing contribution. We didn´t care. We didn´t want to be a burden on society or other. Augusti 2016, me and my family got the residence permit and it was a relive!

Me and my business partner Emma bought Eat and Meet. I had to learn the language fluently, all the laws about running a company, and all the other nonvisible rules. Our vision that people will meet and eat in a nice place for everyone. And we have food for all price ranges.

Main success factor from my point of view is:

  • You must make decisions
  • You must take chances
  • Work in long term
  • Work sustainable
  • Don´t be afraid if it doesn’t go well all the time. Let it inspire you
  • Say yes
  • Trust your stuff
  • Have a transparent management up and down
  • Everyone is equally involved

You also need a lot of skills if you want to succeed. For example, you need to:

Aim toward the sky but have your both feet at the ground. Ask people how to have made it before you. Run your own race and dare to invest.