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 Italian
Photo of Kaoru Chyo

Kaoru Chyo

Kaoru Chyo’s story 

Kaoru Chyo is the owner of the Japanese workshop “Kao's” in the heart of Siena's old town centre in Tuscany. A small oasis of the Land of the Rising Sun that sells food and non-traditional Japanese food and non-traditional items.

The idea was born when Kaoru, previously a sommelier and tourist guide in Siena, decided to start her own business after maternity leave, so that she could better combine her family life with her work life. In embarking on this new adventure, Kaoru undoubtedly has earned the merit of having started her business without any support from her family members, who are far away, or from friends or acquaintances. Kaoru has relied solely on her previous experience and knowledge (e.g. the Haccp course) and has financed her business using the savings from previous work.

Her customers are mainly Siena citizens of different ages and a considerable number of university students, many of whom are Japanese language students. Communication with customers takes place mainly through the shop's social pages, Facebook and Instagram, as well as through a website which also contains a blog with lots of cultural news and interesting information about the products on sale. Kaoru also advertises her activity with business cards and a mailing list. Her network of contacts consists mainly of the suppliers from whom she buys the goods for sale.

According to Kaoru, the key elements for a successful business are given by the “possibility of providing a useful service to help raise awareness of Japanese culture in Italy”. To this, she adds that “to be successful you need maximum transparency with your customers and offer products with good quality/price, but also establish a dialogue with your customers”.

On a personal level, the advantages of Kaoru's business are linked to the possibility of managing the work autonomously without having to depend on other people, while taking responsibility for possible risks. Kaoru also recognises the advantage of being able to sell products belonging to different product categories: in fact, in addition to fancy goods and food, her workshop also sells organic cosmetics. On a social level, on the other hand, Kaoru believes that the impact of her shop is mostly linked to the intercultural value that comes from the sale of her products, which consequently favours the promotion of knowledge of Japanese culture in the Italian context.

As regards the skills needed to run a business, Kaoru considers essential the ability to use computers and related communication channels as well as knowledge of languages, first of all English. In addition, Kaoru considers flexibility and adaptability crucial, as well as readiness to make decisions, but also keeping up to date, especially in the product sectors that are sold.

Kaoru's main advice and recommendations towards migrants wishing to start a business are: “know the language of the host country well, but also and especially its culture and consequently adopt a conscious and respectful attitude towards the context in which you live. Only in this way you can start a business in a constructive way and not only in order to earn money”. During the COVID emergency, Kaoru, after a two-week shutdown, has organised a home delivery service, which is still in operation today: she is responsible for delivering the products to customers' homes. In addition to this, the sale and shipment of products throughout Italy by courier has also been activated; customers can in fact place orders by e-mail on the basis of a catalogue of products.