Vienna , Austria

Talking Business in your Mother Tongue

Vienna Business Agency

September 20, 2011

One stop shop for immigrant entrepreneurs offers business counselling in many languages.

More local governments are recognizing the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs to the economic vitality of their cities. Not only are such entrepreneurs creating businesses that supply the needs of their own communities, they also provide goods and services for the mainstream.

Since 2007, the city of Vienna has made moves to recognize the importance of this group by creating a stream within its business incubation agency, Mingo (which stands for “move in and grow”), meant to address the unique needs of immigrant entrepreneurs.

Over 30% of entrepreneurs in Vienna have a migrant origin background, which equates to approximately 16,000 businesses. Out of a population of 1.7 million, almost 30% of residents were born abroad and 44% have a migration background.

‘Let’s talk about your business. Ideally in your mother tongue’

The decision to include a stream only for migrant entrepreneurs in Mingo was the result of a 2007 study that showed that the ‘business-as-usual’ kind of outreach had typically failed. Although Mingo offered services such as coaching, workshops and even office space to company founders, young entrepreneurs, newly self-employed and others, it had trouble attracting those with a migrant background.

Flyers and advertisements that detailed city services for entrepreneurs typically failed to reach migrant-run businesses because they were delivered in German.

To counter this problem, the Vienna Business Agency (Wirtschaftsagentur Wien) added Mingo Migrant Enterprises (MME) to the roster of services provided by Mingo in 2008. Its purpose was to support at least 300 entrepreneurs within three years in order to improve their economic potential.

“In the case of this target group, it is usually a manner of breaking down people’s inhibitions about accepting help,” says Dr. Gabriele Tatzberger, Department Manager, Mingo. “Often they do not know about promotion opportunities, which is precisely why we have special programmes for self-employed individuals with a migration background.”

In order to break down barriers, MME took the unusual step of offering its services not only in German, but in a number of other languages common to migrants in Vienna.

Its motto? “Let’s talk about your business. Ideally in your mother tongue.”

The move was particularly savvy since the Vienna Business Agency already promoted the city as a hub for international business, declaring that “Vienna’s economy speaks all languages.”

The services MME provides to migrant entrepreneurs resemble what is offered through Mingo itself – such as coaching on issues regarding financing and developing business plans – but goes further by including intercultural classes to help immigrants understand Viennese business culture; networking events as well as personal consultations for entrepreneurs in a number of languages such as Turkish, English and Russian.

In 2011, MME expanded its services to with free bilingual one-day workshops where the speaker addresses participants in both German and another language (English, Polish, Turkish, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian). While the workshops are held in German, technical terms are explained in the mother tongue language. Participants are able to ask questions in either language and trainers can respond in either language too. In addition to these workshops, MME works with the VHS Landstraße – Adult Education Center and the Academy for the Promotion of Adult Education among Immigrants to hold another series of classes in English which cover topics such as project management, finance and accounting, and strategic management.


The plan for the entire Mingo project was to run until 2010, but its success has led to the continuation and growth of the project. At last count, almost 550 entrepreneurs had contacted MME for further information or support, about 150 people have received free coaching for business-founders, and 35 immigrant entrepreneurs participated in free finance coaching. Networking events have taken place within various migrant communities including Turkish, Polish, Bulgarian, American, Chinese and other groups from the Balkan and Eastern Europe.

Making it Work for You:

  • Analyze what works and doesn’t work to reach your target audience.
  • Language matters. Offer services that are aimed at the general population to target immigrant groups in their languages.
  • Provide classes that explain your locality’s specific business, tax and governmental issues that are hard to understand for newcomers.