8.4.2020 17:49

Migrant entrepreneurs depend on their networks – active Suomen Yrittäjät members make social media videos in many languages

During the coronavirus crisis, migrant entrepreneurs have relied on other members of their language communities, other networks and news from their former homelands. That has led to a few misunderstandings.

The coronavirus crisis has crippled businesses in almost all sectors. Information about restrictions and forms of support has been inconsistent, which has caused a lack of awareness and anxiety.

The situation is of course the same among immigrant entrepreneurs, but many of them also face a language barrier. If their Finnish, Swedish or English is not perfectly fluent, it may be difficult to get current, correct information.

Siva Parlar, founder of Vöner Oy and an active member of the Suomen Yrittäjät immigrant network says, “I’ve got calls from people asking me what’s going on and what they should do. Immigrant entrepreneurs don’t have the same major information channels that most people use. That’s why the role of some key figures is significant.”

The Suomen Yrittäjät immigrant entrepreneur network has decided to make social media videos in which members explain the current situation in their native languages.

Watch a video by Ali Giray, chairperson of the network, in Turkish.https://www.youtube.com/embed/lvLxV729Bao?enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fold.yrittajat.fi

The goal is to make more videos in different languages for this site.

False information spreads fast

Parlar is a Kurd from Turkey and has lived in Finland since the age of two. His Finnish is essentially native. He is one of the key people whose phone has been ringing from morning to night, as there are plenty of people who want to ask him questions.

“Both the restaurant sector and HoReCa services have a lot of immigrant entrepreneurs whose operations are now very difficult. Many restaurant owners have tried to start using delivery services, but there are waiting lists for them – you can’t become a participating restaurant just like that,” he says.

Other similar key figures are Pouya Mohammadi, from Turkey, and Ali Giray, active in Joensuu, who has made videos both in Turkish and the Kurmanji dialect of Turkish Kurds.

“Immigrant entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily aware of support packages and other information. Entrepreneurs end up having to keep each other informed,” Mohammadi says.

Peer support is important, but it comes with its own problems. An entrepreneur’s young relative might be the best Finnish speaker, but he or she won’t know an entrepreneur’s work, context or terms. Misunderstandings and imprecise information spread easily, which causes more difficulties.

“Some immigrants have turned to their own countries’ news sources to understand what’s going on. All businesses are suffering, and entrepreneurs are bewildered and worried,” Giray says.

That is why videos, calls and other peer support are important.

“Showing that we support other entrepreneurs is also important. In Turku, we’ve encouraged people to book tables in restaurants for 3–4 months from now,” Mohammadi says.

Siva says entrepreneurs have been very good at meeting each other halfway, such as by cutting rents and offering other forms of assistance.

Something good, too

Mohammadi’s IT company, Arvo Mobile, offers restaurant owners mobile payment solutions and FoodApp online order systems. The coronavirus crisis has seen the company’s services face a peak in demand and attract more business clients.

“We halved our rates and scrapped the yearly membership contract. There is no notice period for new clients. I think it’s my duty to help entrepreneurs,” Mohammadi says.

Parlar and Giray have also managed to overhaul their business operations in the coronavirus crisis. Giray provides Turkish-language services for Business Joensuu.

Parlar set up a Vöner pop-up restaurant in collaboration with Mikko Pakola and Jonna Lehto, members of Culinary Team Finland, and food designer Servan Parlar. The restaurant only does delivery.

“In just a couple of days, we set up a pop-up restaurant we could use to even out Vöner’s HoReCa sales. We’ve sold a good hundred portions a day. It’s also been great to offer work to everyone involved who’s seen their work dry up completely because of the crisis,” Parlar says.

Read the Suomen Yrittäjät news in English about coronavirus here.

Elina Hakola


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