Berlin – One of the main concerns migrants have when considering returning to their countries of origin is finding a job to provide for themselves and their families. They may be out of touch with the job market back home, or unsure whether the skills gained in Germany will lead to employment.

For many, starting their own business presents a viable option. Before leaving Germany, Pierre – who now runs a successful tourism company in the Democratic Republic of Congo – was apprehensive about starting a new life after four years spent outside the country and wanted to get clear ideas about starting a business.

To support returnees with gaining business skills, Social Impact implements StartHope@Home (SH@H) – a qualification program for self-employment after return to the country of origin. The project’s goals are to strengthen a migrant’s entrepreneurial skills and help them develop a business plan in a sector that the participant together with a coach identifies as profitable.

On the left: The three steps of StartHope@Home coaching. On the right: Pierre with his SH@H coach Lena

The coaching, tailored to the participants’ needs, can include up to ten modules which cover brainstorming for a start-up, communication and financing, as well as individual support and planning concrete steps. It is helpful to deal with the question of what happens after return and develop a plan before leaving Germany. The more preparatory work one does – contacting local partners, doing research – the more concrete the business idea becomes. For many returnees, this reduces uncertainties and increases the likelihood that reintegration goes smoothly.

If a participant comes with an initial business idea or entrepreneurial skills, the coach works with them to further develop the idea and enhance their skills. This is however not a requirement and migrants with no prior business experience are welcome to sign up for the program.

Pierre approached Social Impact with some business skills but had “no idea about social media marketing.” He reports that his “business skills were not well shaped to start a modern business.” Through the coaching program, Pierre developed two different business ideas, learned how to do social media marketing, and understood the opportunities and risks associated with starting his business. Since returning to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pierre is using the skills he gained through the coaching at the Social Impact Lab in Munich to start one of his two business ideas – launching a tourism company.

The one-on-one coaching offered by SH@H is free of charge and voluntary. The duration is determined based on the individual business idea and the participant’s availability and motivation. Most coaching sessions last between 10 to 30 hours, or more if needed. The sessions are guided by a participant’s individual needs, not a fixed schedule or curriculum.

Many of the coaches are from the region of the respective country of origin or have extensive experience in the country. While most of the sessions are delivered in English and German, coaches also speak Arabic, Urdu and Spanish. If required, translators for other common languages can be requested. Social Impact also works with women coaches, which can be particularly important for understanding the needs of women and providing information according to their circumstances.

If you or someone you know is interested in the StartHope@Home coaching program, and are from one of these countries, there are no further prerequisites you must fulfil. Simply contact Social Impact via the registration form, call +49 (0) 176 1611 3608, or email or the five locations listed on the website. Coaching can be done in Cologne, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart, or if you do not live near any of these cities, online or by phone. All necessary travel expenses to participate in the program can be reimbursed.

The StartHope@Home program is funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and co-financed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).