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 Patricia Mata

Patricia Mata

My name is PATRICIA MATA. I am 42 years old. I am a self-employed worker in a law firm.
The name of my company is Giménez y Mata Abogados. It is located in calle Ribarroja 52, 46940 Manises, Valencia, Spain.

It was established in 2018 and the main activities are:

  • civil law.
  • family law.
  • immigration law.
  • entrepreneurship and counseling.

I was born in Venezuela.

I came to Spain in 2005 because I got a grant from the Carolina Foundation, financed by the Government of Spain, to do a master's degree in Madrid. When I finished it, I made the decision to stay here.

The first thing I had to do was to homologate the title of law graduate obtained in Venezuela, through the University of Alicante. It was a bit of a lengthy process, which I combined with the job of a clerk.
When the process ended I got a job in a law firm in Madrid.
At one point I decided to come to live in Valencia with my family.

Given the difficulties in finding a job, being a woman and a migrant, and the fact that law is a liberal profession, I chose to set up my own office, with the experience I already had from the job I had developed in Madrid, but reorienting my activities especially towards immigration and family law.
The issue of immigration was being reactivated in Spain, which had stopped completely due to the economic crisis, so I thought it was a good option. Advising migrants on how to register, legal aspects, how to set up their own business, different entrepreneurship systems, etc.
I had the moral support of my husband, who is also a lawyer but who has always worked for others and in other areas than mine.

When changing the area of ​​activity as a lawyer, I had to update my training and take courses at the Bar Association of Valencia, especially in matters of immigration.

With my previous experience, I did not need either a feasibility plan or a market analysis.
But I considered an advantage for me, facing the type of clients I was looking for, having gone through the same situations and the same problems that they could have.

Surely I could practice law more closely to them and in a more trustworthy environment.

I didn't need seed funding because luckily I had enough savings. And because the expenses that I needed to start were not high because I did not need too much infrastructure.
All my financial and tax issues are managed by an administrative agency located in Manises since the beginning.
The beginning was very hard, especially to get clients one by one, so I had to activate all my social networks, especially Facebook, until I got the client portfolio that I have today. Many of them have even become friends.
Over time, word of mouth has been my primary form of advertising.

I have a website, a Facebook page and Instagram.
Lately I use more Instagram than Facebook.
We do not organize any type of advertising campaign, except for what we spread through our social networks.
We don't need promotion materials like business cards, flyers…
We have a very well organized network of contacts through our social networks.
We participate in many events, especially as speakers, mainly aimed at foreign entrepreneurs.
I talk about my business with other people anywhere, anytime, in any situation.

The main motivation I have is to achieve that closeness to people. To let everyone know they can count on me.
The support of my husband and his family has been essential to be able to carry out my work and reconcile work and personal life. But of course I have to make sacrifices.
Being self-employed worker, there are better months and worse months, so I always have to invest a lot of time in my business and this affects my family life.

To be successful is necessary constancy, perseverance and the efforts needed to do the job well. Fight to the end, until the rights of my clients are recognized.
The benefits, both personal and social, are the satisfaction of verifying that people have done well in their lives and that I have been able to accompany and advise them on that journey.

The most relevant skills and competence to perform my business successfully are:

  • the own knowledge of a lawyer.
  • some social skills, like empathy, responsibility and closeness.
  • interculturality is also a very important factor to be taken into consideration.
  • communication skills, dealing with migrants who do not speak the language of the host country.

Being Spanish speaker I have never had communication problems, but it is obvious that the knowledge of the language of the host country is crucial for a full integration of the migrants.

When I started practising my profession in Spain, I found out that there are many different idioms in Spanish-speaking countries. That initially caused me communication problems with Spaniards at work level.
The professional slang and the way of writing the documents caused me problems at first. Let's say that, in a way, I had to restructure my profession. But it was simply a matter of adaptation.

Of course, knowing the language of the host country and its cultural aspects is a basic first step in becoming an entrepreneur.

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

  • to be well advised; many times important initial mistakes are made due to the lack of information and advice.
  • to have a lot of patience.
  • to be constant; usually, not everything goes well during the entrepreneurship process.