There were expectations in the air as people mingled with coffee and cake. A fresh blend of well established Swedish business people, family and friends from Syria, representatives from different governmental functions, even a representative from the Swedish Parliament and media were filling the room.
“We are proud to present a group of 9 entrepreneurs who will pitch their business ideas today” said Hakan Sandberg, the founder of the Itzinya concept, as the program started. After Hakan introduced Itzinya, Khaldoun Sarraj from Syria continued to give a picture of what it mean to be a new arrival in Sweden. “As new arrivals we came eager to rebuild our lives but with only the initial idea in our minds, and then we worked together at Itzinya to come closer to our final “product”. What you will see today is the result of hard work. We have an unusual situation. We struggle with language, to understand the Swedish tax system, we need to build relations both in business and private and in many ways we feel like we are starting all over again like children”. Khaldoun who has an MBA from Dubai and have been responsible at Mercedes after sales department in Dubai, with 200 people reporting to him, is himself a clear example of this difficult transition. He is now full time staff with Itzinya and will lead the work in Norrkoping moving forward.
Then one after the other pitched their ideas to the audience. It was a mix of business ideas that had come to a variety of different stages. Many in the audience were surprised when they heard the experience the entrepreneurs had behind them from both studies and previous jobs that laid the basis for the ideas they were now working hard to realise. There was one invention for TV studios, already proven and sold in the Arab world but that the entrepreneur now wanted to start manufacturing in Sweden for global export. Another is planning to start a business coordinating the ground handling and flight permissions for aviation companies, something that he has previous experience of. If he succeeds, he will need to employ people to work 3 shifts due to the nature of this kind of business. Yet another is starting a new global perfume brand targeting a customer segment that no one previously have thought of and he has extensive experience in this industry. A couple of restaurants and one export company for medical equipment were also pitched. The export company had already shipped its first batch to his first customer. One could easily read the pride those entrepreneurs felt as they pitched and their sense of hope for the future.
“It is amazing to see the change this group has gone through during those 4 months” said Hakan. When they met the first time and introduced themselves they were all strangers to one another. They explained how they didn’t have any contact with Swedish people, no knowledge of the language and how they felt totally outside society. This group was all in the category that had not yet got their residence permits and therefore was not eligible for language study. A period that currently is more than 12 months from their arrival. Now after 4 months they are like a big family that trust, help and encourage one another. They got to know many Swedish people both in business and privately. They all have a personal coach and by now most of them have received their permissions and started language studies. They are excited over the opportunity to add value to their new society. And all these are just “side effects” of the startup process, Hakan stated this reality with a smile!
He ended saying; “We have tested this with one group of new comers and know that it works. We are now ready to expand both to other cities in Sweden and to other cities in Europe that has the same need of job creation and integration”.
Itzinya is looking to start multiplying the concept where it is needed. They would be happy to host a Skype call with interested people as a way for them to get introduced to the concept and be able to validate whether they should move on with serious plans. You can contact them at [email protected]
Find the first article about this project here.