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 Spanish
Photo of Mirta Sotomayor

Mirta Sotomayor

My name is MIRTA SOTOMAYOR. I am 54 years old. I am a self-employed worker in a NGO for integration of vulnerable people.

The name of my company is Asociación Dona´m la ma - Pojoaju. It is located in avenida El Vedat 101, 46900 Torrent, Valencia, Spain.

It was established in 2017 and the main activities are:

  • advice and information; counselling.
  • training for employment and social insertion.
  • human rights-based care of migrant children and youth.
  • campaigns to recruit and sensitize people for volunteer support.
  • exchanges of good practices.
  • partnership networking.
  • research and investigation.
  • internships of students.

I was born in Argentina.

I graduated as social worker and expert in international cooperation.

In 2001 I was working as an employee of the World Bank for Development, in the border between Argentina and Brazil.
Then the crisis started there and, although I had a job, I decided to come to Spain looking for a change in my life.
But when I arrived to Spain I found many obstacles along the way.

I started a kind of internship in an international NGO but it became a very bad experience.
After three months I left the NGO and it was very difficult to get the documents and the work permit in order to be legal in Spain. It took me six years to complete the process but finally I got it. So I was illegal during six years, which was a dramatic situation.
Since then I have been working in many places doing different activities.
But three years ago, in 2017, I decided to set up my own association, dealing with vulnerable people and trying to help them to overcome the same problems I had in the past.

I am very happy for that, especially because being self-employed worker gives you more freedom to act than working for others.
My friends supported and motivated me, which was very important on an emotional level.
I did a project in order to analyze the feasibility of the association but I did not submit it to any public administration. It was only for my own belief.
I spent my savings to set up the business.

An accountant is in charge of my finances. She is member of the board of directors of the association since the beginning (there are six members in the board).
My clients are vulnerable people. The association started working only with migrants but currently we are also dealing with refugees, women, children, elderly and other disadvantaged groups, no matter if they are nationals or foreigners.

Word of mouth is the best advertising. Anyway the association has a website, a facebook page, instagram and a contact list in whatsapp.
We promote our services through the website, the Facebook page, instagram and by whatsapp.
The association belongs to the Intercultural Platform of Spain which is a good channel to disseminate our activities.
We have never paid for promotion campaigns.
We don’t use any kind of promotion materials because we don’t need it.
We have a network of business contacts in Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, informing everybody about our services. We filled in a form for each person who contacts us.
We organize events every week because we consider networking a necessary tool for dissemination. And we are always opened to participate in any event to which we are invited.

Every day we talk with a lot of people as we are a very active association.
To feel that I am doing a necessary work is my main motivation, many people need our help.
I am very happy with my job, not many sacrifices. But it carries a heavy burden of responsibility.
To be located in Torrent, with a population closer to 80.000 inhabitants, gives us a great competitive advantage. Many people from the nearby towns come to our association.

We have a lot of associated partners at local level.
It would have been much more difficult to do the same in Valencia, with a population of 800.000 inhabitants and a lot of organizations working in this field.

Our experience is also a key point for success.

Benefits are more emotional due to the close contact with vulnerable people in an intercultural environment.
There are three important factors to perform a business successfully: the knowledge, the willingness and the implementation ability.
Other important skills are the empathy, the calm, the sensitivity, the tolerance and always keep in mind the human rights.
I never had problems with communicating because Spanish is my native language. Obviously it is very important to speak the language of the host country as fluently as possible.

I never experienced any difficulties when dealing with native people or people from another culture. But attitude is very important.
The key to best adapt to a new culture as part of the work as an entrepreneur is to be intercultural.

My tips and recommendations for migrants who want to start their own business would be:

  • to be well prepared.
  • to know the host country.
  • to start working for others in order to learn better the job.
  • to take training courses.
  • to read a lot.
  • to avoid getting into too much debt.
  • to try to create alliances.
  • resilience.