For budding entrepreneurs, it’s one thing to come up with a business idea but quite another to work out how to take those first steps towards making their vision a reality. Indeed, for many refugee and migrant families, the ideas and even the know-how may be there, but navigating entrepreneurship in a new country, and often a new language, can be a minefield.

Enter iGen Foundation, a not-for-profit, charity that provides business start-up training for migrants, young people and those in regional communities.

“Whenever we run programs we always run them for individuals but we’ve noticed how often one person is trying to take on the information for the rest of the family. We know many migrants run family businesses and it benefits the whole family to receive our support,” says Lynda Ford, Program Manager of iGen Foundation and CEO of Enterprising Partnerships, the sponsoring company for iGen.

So Lynda and her team partnered with the City of Melbourne and Jesuit Social Services and established Keeping it in the Family, a project which aims to work with 40 families over two years to provide start-up skills and knowledge.

The process will start with three Big Ideas Days, run at different times of the day so everyone who wants to can attend, says Lynda.

After the Big Ideas Day, Lynda plans to have four cohorts of 10 families each go through the program, which will include training sessions, mentoring and business coaching.Four workshops will be in person and two will be online as we know it’s hard to get the family together for something like this,” says Lynda.

iGen will also provide Myki cards and childcare during the workshops, recognising the hurdles migrant women, in particular, may face trying to attend the program.

To further increase support of the families, Lynda has decided each cohort will be taught in language. “We’ll start with Spanish, then do an English language cohort, then possibly Mandarin and Arabic.”

As well as learning crucial start-up information such as how to get an ABN and market the business, Lynda has found in previous programs that participants really benefit from the connection and networks formed during the workshops.

“For example, during a program we ran through the City of Hume, one Kenyan man wanted to build houses and one Colombian man wanted to sell smart technology for homes, so they worked out they could support and use each other’s business to build their own,” she says.

To monitor the benefits of both entrepreneurial training and intercultural connection, Lynda has invited researchers from Swinburne University to evaluate the program. “What difference does the business training make to families? And how much do participants benefit from sitting next to someone from a different cultural background?” asks Lynda.

Hopefully with 40 thriving businesses to report back on down the track, the answer will be that the benefits are great.

Innovation Generation

If you or someone you know is interested in start-up support for a migrant family business, head to iGen for more information.