“Learn about the culture of a new country, region, and city first. Learn from your mistakes. Know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses.”
In 2014, Mohamed Alshartah travelled from Syria to Belgium as a refugee. A new and different culture has motivated him to adapt his background to his new life in Belgium by starting a business in food.
In Syria, Mohamed obtained a secondary school degree in economic specialisation with a focus in accounting and bookkeeping. Once he moved to Belgium, he received employment through the government and began studying Dutch. In 2016 Mohamed joined microStart, M-UP member in Belgium, and attended their information sessions created for aspiring entrepreneurs and two training courses on business management.
As a refugee, Muhamed wished to bring Syrian culture to Belgium by opening a restaurant in Ghent. Due to high costs and difficult logistics, he decided to open a catering business. He met with microStart and the team has provided him with helpful information, guidance, and training regarding start-up, and addition information on businesses, taxes, regulations, and administration.
In May of 2019, Mohamed officially started his business. Mohamed has already catered for a few events, where he proactively introduced himself and brought samples of his food to share. This approach proved to be successful: Mohammed has secured contracts for larger events and connected with new high-profile clients.
“For me always my mission is to be up-to-date with information to always grow my business.”
Mohamed’s goal is to target anyone who wants to try tasty Syrian food, and he is specifically interested in catering wedding parties. In addition, he hopes to purchase a truck so that he can expand his network to include different cities both in and out of Belgium.
This business has taught Mohamed the importance of language and communication between businesses and their clients. He also realised that receiving relevant information and guidance from microStart was key: for example, they advised him to choose catering over starting a restaurant right away. Had he not had this advice, Mohamed may have pursued a business model that was less attainable than catering. Mohamed’s personal mentor has also helped him become aware of risks to avoid so that he can run the business sustainably and create a repayment plan for his loan.
Mohamed’s advice for entrepreneurs is: “Preparation is very important. Make a plan and business model canvas, analyse competitors, decide who the product is aimed at, and determine if it serves their needs. Have both a long-term and short-term strategy for the business.”