Five questions to Mohamed Alassar from AskproAdmin
From 20 years of engineering professional experience in Syria to empowering fellow craftsmen newcomers through Askpro in the Netherlands- a quality renovation service business in the greater Amsterdam area
What is your business about?
‘My business, it’s a house with a drive. We do all the renovation for the house inside and outside. We have something like a special dimension in our company, that all the people who are working there, are firstly newcomers as they came to the Netherlands as refugees, but also good craftsmen. They have very good experience in this field, however, failed to enter the Dutch labour market with the problem of language and certificates. For this, my first step is to improve their skills, to be adapted to the Dutch labour market, and also give them enough confidence to continue their life here and to become more independent, to have more information about the system. But at first, it’s commercial work. We make money, and we do good business for our clients, but we keep this social dimension in our vision. How I came up with this business idea was that first of all, I’m an expert engineer. I had my own construction company in Syria. I worked for 20 years in the oil field. It was a big company. I worked for many European companies also as a subcontractor. I have the experience to run a business like this. Secondly, I felt it was very difficult for me to qualify for my certificates. I came here at 50 years old. For this, I faced a lot of problems entering the Dutch labour market with something I like and suitable for my capability. Therefore, I found myself having two choices: either I go to school and learn Dutch for three years, or I open a business and do something that I like. I chose the latter because I can also communicate well in English.
The main reason why I wanted to start my own business is that I’m looking for people also who are afraid to enter the Dutch market because of the language. As they don’t have high education in the places where they come from, they will always be limited here. But through my company, they will already have a head start in the Netherlands. There are a lot of people, still in the subsidy system, who failed to enter the Dutch labour market either because of language or because they are instructed to do something they don’t like. I, therefore, hire these people who have good experience, so that we can improve their skills step by step to reach the Dutch standards, which are very high.’
In your whole entrepreneurial journey, what are you proud of?
‘I am firstly proud because I’m independent. I’ve been out of the subsidy system for four years. Not only this, but I also run my company with a team of five to 12 people. Six of my employees have already started their own businesses. Working for my company was their first step into their entrepreneurial journey, which makes me proud. They usually work for me for between two and four years, before launching their own firm. You can find their entrepreneurial journey on my website.’
What comes to mind when you think about your journey at Forward?
‘Forward for me was really very hard, as it felt like a full-time job. It’s a very big challenge to keep this social dimension company. And also, I still have a lot of problems in administration. Paperwork here takes a lot of energy and time. I did not get educated well here to do all of this, but I got some help from Forward. In general, we are doing well.’
When I did the Forward programs, the business idea that I had was not a hard one, as I wanted to open a renovation company, however, the idea and capabilities were not solid enough. Forward Inc. helped me to build the idea and the business model. I also got good training from Forward Inc. This offered me many opportunities to me. But most importantly, they gave me a sense of belonging and a group of friends. I still have very good connections with many people I met there before through my program. And many of them also become clients for me.’
What is your current challenge?
‘I still have a lot of problems with administration. I did some mistakes when I passed my offer, as it’s a step-by-step process. That’s why we avoid step-by-step processes. Our professionality has been affected by projects of our projects, of our projects. But most importantly, we are currently having very good quality with our activity. Our clients are satisfied. We have this full agenda three months down the line. In general, we are doing well. Maybe I need to refresh my website. I’m not very good at communication. I’m not very active in media. I’m not active on social media platforms, like Facebook. What I prefer doing is working on-site with people, and having clear appointments, as it’s easier for me. Now it’s very difficult for me to commit to the program.’
What do you wish for Forward·Inc and all the entrepreneurs that are joining Forward·Inc?
‘I think for the incubator, what they offer is very great. They become big doors for everyone who is an entrepreneur, but also with a refugee background, to enter through it the Dutch labour market. They are professionals and they know what they are doing. Their connections with big companies are very helpful. For a company like mine, I get more than 35 free hours of training from a posting consulting group. This helped me to know the atmosphere, and how everything goes economically. The systems always when I knock on the doors for the incubator, open for me and take me to the right way. I wish the entrepreneurs success more success. When I look at what I got from Forward, I think it was great, that’s why I wish this for everyone looking to start a new business to start it here. For this, I take my wife, Ma, to start her program with them. I take some friends also there because I trust them and they can do their job for them.’