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Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs

One of Sweden's largest job fairs, Bazaren, kicked off in Stockholm on Thursday, with an estimated 10,000 people set to attend the event with a special focus on entrepreneurs. The Local was on hand to survey the scene.

The two-day Bazaren jobs fair is a collaborative effort between the private, public, and academic sectors of Stockholm, organized by the Stockholm County Administrative Board. The event features dozens of organizations involved in assisting job-searchers as well as companies interested in recruiting new workers.

Visitors can receive personal help with their CVs from the jobs agency, practice interview techniques, meet employers, learn how to start their own businesses, and find information about validating their foreign education.

Indeed, three floors of Stockholm’s Kulturhuset  were bustling as Swedes, foreigners, young, and old alike mingled and searched for the next step on their personal career ladders.

“I am here not so much looking for a job, but for networking,” Monir Hossain, a young telecommunication student from Bangladesh, tells The Local with a smile.  “It’s a helpful event and you never know who you will meet.”

Monir Hossain, networking at the event.

After three years in Sweden, Hossain says he is also looking for a good position – but that he’s patient.

“Finding a job in Sweden can be tough, yes. If you don’t know the language, how can you think you'll find a job in one day? You have to be positive and enthusiastic,” Hossain exclaims.

In contrast, Scotsman Alistair Dinwiddie has worked in Sweden for decades – but has been unemployed for the last two and hopes to find something new.

“I came here on a six-month cartographer assignment,” he says, “And now I’ve been here 30 years.”

Dinwiddie was lucky enough to have a job that  kept him employed in Sweden for years, but now he says it can be tough to get an interview.

“I’ve applied for quite a few jobs, but don’t usually get interviews, perhaps because of my age,” the sprightly 62-year-old remarks.

Dinwiddie and son Robert, also a job-seeker.

“But I’m hoping maybe I can find something as a taxi driver,” he adds, gesturing towards the Taxi Stockholm booth in the corner.

But Bazaren is more than just a matchmaking event for job-seekers and companies in need. It’s also a resource goldmine for those considering starting their own businesses.

“I was actually here last year looking for a job, and now I’m back looking for opportunities to open a business,” Cat McIlroy tells The Local.

McIlroy moved to Sweden two years ago, but struggled to find work – a common tale.

“It’s kind of a Catch 22 when you’re looking for work and don’t speak Swedish, because you can’t really work full time if you’re going to SFI language classes,” the Irish immigrant explains. “I feel like I’m still at square one. So I thought I’d try something else.”, a website managed by a coalition of Swedish government agencies that offers helpful information for entrepreneurs, is one of the key players at Bazaren's ‘Starta eget’ ('start your own business') section of the event.

”Verksamt consists of some 11 agencies that cooperate, primarily Tillväxtverket, Skatteverket, and Bolagsverket,” Verksamt’s Evelina Svedberg informs The Local.

 “We wanted to create a website that would gather all of the important information for those who want to start and run their own businesses, and was the result.”

The portal, which translates roughly to 'active' in English, streamlines the entire entrepreneurial process, and offers not just information but also e-services and referrals to other helpful partners.

“We have information available in English, and we refer people to other advisors and incubators where they can receive guidance in their own language, via telephone or email.”

In fact, Svedberg’s number-one tip for visitors is to speak with an advisor at the event, such as Almi-IFS, which offers free consulting specifically for entrepreneurs and business owners with foreign backgrounds.

”In Stockholm we offer business counselling in English, French, Spanish, Turkish, and Arabic,” Almi IFS representative Yasin Diken tells The Local. “But in all of Sweden we have 18 to 20 different languages, so we can also call to a counselor located elsewhere.”

Beyond basic business advice, Almi IFS can help new companies to get off the ground through financial assistance, Diken says.

“The hardest part for immigrant entrepreneurs is usually financing the business,” he says. “Up to 80 percent struggle with it. So we have microloans, as well as what we call ‘innovation loans’ for those who are still in the process of developing their products and need to break onto the market.”

Other participants at Bazaren include banks, unions, education and training providers, and companies that help simplify the process of running a business. One such company is Firmify.

”Basically we take care of all the administrative work, taxes, et cetera, and the customer just sends the bill to the client,” co-founder Oscar Hagelbäck explains. “It can be a much easier way to start off.”

The company is currently working on producing an English-version of their website and services, and spoke with several immigrant entrepreneurs at the event.

“There’s definitely a trend; business owners from all corners of the world now live and work in Sweden,” Hagelbäck says. “So it’s only natural that we have information in English as well.”

And with plenty of information and something for everyone, Bazaren is truly paying off.

“It has been very useful,” McIlroy says. “The agencies and staff are very willing to engage in English and provide information. It’s been great.”

This article was sponsored by and produced by The Local