Small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs, defined as firms with fewer than 250 employees), represent 99% of all businesses across Europe, and provide around 70% of employment. But who are these entrepreneurs that form the backbone of the European economy? They are mostly people who are considered migrants. In Germany for example, 17% of the 4.2 million self-employed people are considered migrants (Leicht, 2016). They either migrated to a new country (voluntarily or by force) or they are (grand)children of these immigrants. In the northern, central and eastern EU countries their self-employment rate is above those of natives.
The reasons for migrants to consider self-employment can either be out of necessity (e.g. unemployment) or out of free will (e.g. outlook of social mobility). Irrespective of push or pull factors, the multiplicity of migrant-owned business holds a high potential. These migrant entrepreneurs are not only middlemen/women who serve their co-ethnic peers. They have the potential to integrate themselves into the economic environment of their host country. They are an important source of innovation that contributes to economic development in both host and home countries. Besides creating new ideas and products, migrant entrepreneurs generate their own income as well as jobs (Leicht, 2018:526).
Policy-makers have already acknowledged the potential behind this kind of entrepreneurship. The European Commission’s Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan includes “Entrepreneurial education and training”, creating an “environment where entrepreneurs can flourish and grow” as well as identifying role models and designing outreach to specific groups (EC n.d.). These actions aim to release the full potential of all kind of entrepreneurs. The encouragement of migrant entrepreneurs is a promising strategy for economic growth as well as advancing migrants' opportunities for social participation. Yet support strategies for migrant entrepreneurship are still scarce and may not always address migrants’ needs. Besides policies that might reduce the institutional and administrative barriers,3 migrant entrepreneurs still face disadvantages in starting a business compared to natives. There are no standardised schemes and methods to support migrant entrepreneurs. Different kinds of agents with different organisational forms approach the objective of trying to enable migrants to start their own businesses.
This paper aims to give an overview of selected European organisations and identify their differences and similarities. In particular, we want to look at the coaching and schemes these organisations use and how these address the barriers that migrant entrepreneurs face.