On the morning of the 19th March SPARK hosted a jury panel in Amsterdam to assess the business plans of the entrepreneurs who recently finished SPARK’s five week Migrant Entrepreneur training. Under scrutiny that morning were three migrants from Suriname who have been working on their business plans since their training began in February. The possibility of continued support and assistance from SPARK, including individual coaching and support with market research, were in the balance.

The panel

SPARK’s panel works with high transparency standards in order to give the candidates an honest and fair opinion of their business idea. In previous years SPARK has assessed migrants from a wide range of countries including Afghanistan, Suriname and Sudan, Liberia & Burundi. Migrants often have plans of returning to their home countries in later life and it is the panel’s role to recommend who would be a good candidate for further business support.

The panel began by thanking the entrepreneurs for their hard work in getting this far. Gea Wijers, who was heading the panel, is a community based consultant who has research and practical experience of working with inter-cultural entrepreneurs from a wide range of diaspora. The jury is essential to look at the whole person, not only the business plan, and asses how feasible the plan is for that individual. The jury looks at factors such as – how well connected is the candidate to their home country, do they have an upscaling strategy and are they in it for the long term?

Each entrepreneur gets 10-15 minutes to present their business idea followed by a short interview.  A successful pitch and business idea will be further supported by SPARK to help the candidate do follow up market research and to receive coaching in their home country. For the jury the extra support in country will help those who are hesitant to return but who have the opportunity to build a good business. She distinguishes between ‘survival entrepreneurs,’ those who start a business because they need to and ‘opportunity entrepreneurs’ who build on the opportunities they see.

The entrepreneurs

The two business ideas being pitching that day were an administration business, in order to provide a professional secretarial service and a local chicken farm business, a staple food in Suriname.

Only SPARK’s fist candidate, Silvana, was successful in passing the panels judgement in this instance. Her business demonstrated a clear client base which only needed further definition while she also has a lot of practical experience working as a secretary in the Netherlands. For Silvana the experience was a chance to get some honest feedback on her ideas: ‘I would have gone ahead with the idea any way, with or without SPARK. It was a bit stressful before I did my presentation but I thought to myself, if it doesn’t work out here then it is a pity but not the end of my idea.’ Being an entrepreneur is not any easy task, the business climate, the individuals experience and approach are all important. SPARK hosts the panels twice a year which is open to migrant entrepreneurs who have a strong business plan and would like some more support.

If you or someone you know has the interest and drive to begin a business, SPARK’s next entrepreneurship training programme starts in April, read more here.