Munich, Germany

Reaching out to Migrant Entrepreneurs in Munich

Landeshauptstadt München

August 24, 2012

Recognizing the contribution of immigrant entrepreneurs helps promote small business success and build a network of business leaders.

The winners are from many backgrounds – Turkish, Hungarian, Tunisian, Russian, Kurdish and Iranian. Ilhan Alakara has run a travel agency for ten years. Sisters Besma and Ikram Cherif own a personnel management firm. Amir Roughani has a staff of 142 employees in his IT company.

Since 2010, the City of Munich has handed out the Phoenix Prize at an annual gala at City Hall, awarding € 1,000 to each of three winners who exemplify “outstanding economic achievements and social responsibility efforts of migrant enterprises.” These exemplary individuals may be successful entrepreneurs. They may have hired or created opportunities for young trainees or apprentices from migrant backgrounds, supported diversity within their workforce or invested within the city. Their stories are part of Munich’s success story.

The Phoenix Prize is one of four components of the Migrant Entrepreneurs in Munich (MEM) program, run by the city’s Department of Labour and Economic Development, Local Employment and Qualification Policy. It is part of the Munich Employment and Qualification Program (MBQ), through which the City of Munich pursues its primary labour market strategy. Currently sponsoring more than 110 projects and activities, the program seeks to improve the employment prospects of disadvantaged persons on Munich’s labour market. Migrant entrepreneurs belong to one of the key target groups.

Munich, the third largest city in Germany, takes its economic success seriously. This means recognizing the importance of migrant enterprises. In a city of 1.3 million, over 35 per cent of residents has a migration background. The city estimates that the over 12,000 migrant-run businesses has resulted in the employment of over 100,000 people from all sectors of life.

 Four pillars

MEM describes the four pillars of its migrant entrepreneurship program: providing assistance, helping with qualifications, creating dialogue, and promoting recognition. Launched in 1999 to provide training for established migrant entrepreneurs and their employees, the program has grown to include specialized services to help new and emerging entrepreneurs get started, develop business plans or help them assess their qualifications and needs for further training. The Business Dialogue Forum with Migrants offers support for business start-ups through counseling services with experts. Other offerings include a training course on how established entrepreneurs or business leaders can mentor young entrepreneurs and pass on the required knowledge and relevant skills needed to succeed in the labour market.

Outreach remains a critical part of MEM’s ongoing success, including building a growing network of successful migrant organizations, businesses and leaders who are interested in helping foster migrant entrepreneurship in the city. The diversity of MEM’s office staff provides ready access to a pool of foreign language skills and knowledge about informal communities and networks that helps them recruit new clients from districts with a high percentage of people with a migration background. Other recruitment strategies include monitoring advertisements in local ethnic media and maintaining a multilingual website in languages such as Turkish, Greek, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish and Croatian.


MEM is now considered Munich’s information and counselling hub for business development in the city’s migrant communities, helping small business operators and employers and future entrepreneurs to build bridges with mainstream institutions. With growing recognition for the Phoenix Prize, cities such as Nuremberg have expressed interest in replicating its success. MEM team members are increasingly in demand at local and international conferences and seminars to share good practices on migrant entrepreneurship. Funding for the program comes from the City, the European Social Fund and the European Union.

Making it Work for You:

  • Building a successful network means working one link at a time, ensuring that practical benefits and contributions travel in both directions
  • Face to face contact with immigrant entrepreneurs is essential when building a program network. Consultation will help you assess what kind of support is needed while building trust and confidence to move the relationship forward.
  • Start small with a focus on measurable outcomes and build on the success of existing programs to create a broader range of services.
  • A city-wide prize shows commitment to the program’s success, recognizes local heroes and builds support through media and network.