Starting in a new city can be hard when you don’t have a network of connections. Not to mention starting a new business!
The founders of KulturenReich know exactly how it feels. KulturenReich is a social enterprise built by foreign-born women, who, having faced the challenges of being new in Vienna, help other foreign-born women through their supportive community and an entrepreneurship academy focused on business skills.
We spoke to Amarilla Nirmala, KulturenReich’s own Chief Marketing Whizz, about their idea, plans and their participation in the found! 2019 accelerator program.
What inspired you to launch KulturenReich?
KulturenReich started when Tila (Asetila Köstinger), who was a total stranger at that time, reached us through a Facebook group, asking about voluntarily activity for a social initiative. We first met in January 2018, all foreign-born Viennese ourselves. We, although never met before, talked about the struggles and challenges we had upon arriving in this beautiful city. We all have our own personal stories and realised how similar they were. We realized that complaining and whining won’t solve any problems, and this should be a mindset of all foreign-born and migrant women. Hence, we decided to take the matter into our hands, to help other ladies, who have similar struggles.
KulturenReich isn’t only based on personal experience, but also through surveys and validation in foreign-born, expat, and migrant communities. They have experienced some bumps to start their professional lives again in Austria. Learning curve and uncertainty are real. So we launched KulturenReich as a way to support each other because we believe international talents with so much cultural understanding is one of the strong pillars in today’s economy.
How does KulturenReich work?
We support women through entrepreneurship academy, a supportive group and on-job training. We provide know-how tools about business, mainly minor, startup, and small businesses initiatives. Plus we are currently preparing our on-job training scheme, dedicated to bridge the CV gap and introduce the ladies to the Viennese work environment.
As foreign women in Vienna, how did you find the business registration process to be?
Vienna offers many channels of support through the government, however, foreign-born women and migrants are often afraid to use these services or speak up. Often times the information is misunderstood.
That’s why KulturenReich, since March 2019, is in an official agreement with Vienna Business Agency, and currently, they support our events, and workshops in a specific topic in terms of setting up a business. We would like to be more present and have more collaborative partners, so we can help more foreign-born and migrant women to get clarity and guide them in their entrepreneurial journey. From us, they will get a supportive group and know-how tools, and from respective partners, they will get thorough regulatory information.
What stage is your startup at right now?
We officially started in January 2018, we launched at the EXPAT Centre with support from Vienna Business Agency in June and officially registered as an association (Verein) in the same month. We provide our services and are currently focusing on revenue stream and sustainability. We are strengthening our community, and progressing to our fourth academy namely We DO Academy in Autumn 2019.
What has been the response to your initiative?
I think such an initiative is very much needed. When you move to a new country, there are many things to learn and absorb and often times it is too much. Foreign-born and migrant women need a supportive group where they can build each other and reach the top together. We have been growing our community to nearly 600 people organically, and with 30-80 people actively coming to our events. We would like to increase the number of participants at our academy, and as a community, we aim to double size this year.
It is a warm feeling when people mention that they like our initiative. We are friends with the ladies, who use our services, not only as members but as a big family because we believe in cooperation.
Which of the training programs you offer is the most popular?
Pitching preparation, business model canvas, and marketing are three subjects that are most attractive. And as we are in collaboration with the Vienna Business Agency, the basic information about setting up a business is always interesting.
What do you see as the main challenges foreign women face in Austria?
The biggest ones are the language and network.
What are the three most important skills would you say women entering the workforce in Austria should focus on improving?
Networking, language, and to know your niche.
Which part of found! program has been the most helpful?
The Deloitte mentors with whom we have had a great time. We were able to get very much needed support from them, such as the preparation of a financial plan. Also, the workshop with startups during which we got valuable insights from other social entrepreneurs.
Why do you think accelerator programs such as found! are important to start-ups?
As Marieke Pluk, Impact Hub Program Manager responsible for found!, said, social entrepreneurs cannot work alone, we need partners and we need support. found! has been a great help for us because it increases our visibility not only as a social business but also it brings awareness that problems faced by our niche aren’t exclusive. This is a challenge, we as a community, -all Viennese- need to solve together
What’s your main focus at the moment?
We are preparing our upcoming event, Find Your Female Co-Founder #3, a platform to match entrepreneurs to meet their potential partners. Not only women but men are also very much welcomed at this event! Secondly, we are focusing on strengthening our community through breakfast meetups, where we share challenges and solve them together through our varied expertise. Thirdly, we are preparing our career incubator (on-job training). More information to come soon!