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Home > Life Stories > The Language Entrepreneur - Poland - 1

The Language Entrepreneur - Poland - 1

Mr L is now in his forties and he came to Poland from Ukraine in 1999 as he perceived it as a country of “greater possibilities”. Apart from economic reasons, as his motive for staying in Poland, he also emphasizes visa facilitations for citizens of Ukraine (thanks to an agreement between Ukraine and the EU that regulates the visa issuing process for Ukrainians). Mr L has finished linguistics studies in Ukraine and before coming to Poland he worked as a teacher and taught English language.

His company started its operations in 2006 after Mr L obtained a permanent residence permit, as that is a prerequisite for him to set up his own business. As the reason for starting a new company Mr L mentioned a wish to become independent from previous employers and "try something on my own account”. Furthermore a language school was an obvious choice, as he had long-term experience in that field. The main area of interest for Mr L’s company is the organization of language courses (mainly English) for business. Before setting up his own business Mr L worked in Poland as an English tutor and established many contacts with entrepreneurs and business representatives. This was very important at the beginning of running his own business as personal contacts with potential customers resulted in them deciding to change their language service provision to Mr L’s company, thanks to better conditions he could offer them (relating to prices and flexibility).

Apart from giving the company a strong start-up momentum, there were other benefits to links with a wide range of companies; the possibility of working with other businesses through language courses. In 2008 Mr L identified a market niche and decided to expand his business into recruitment services. This second strand of the company’s operations focuses on recruiting low-skilled employees (mainly Ukrainian citizens) that would like to work in Polish companies (some of his customers for the recruitment services come from his language courses). The decision to expand in this direction was in response to observed market trends – Polish companies started to look for foreign employees from Eastern Europe, as they could offer them lower wages. Although the recruitment services offered by the company are developing very fast, Mr L regrets that he didn’t identify this opportunity earlier as at the moment there is strong competition from larger companies. However, the strength of his company is close relations with other entrepreneurs and a good understanding and experience in the eastern European labor market. 

For the future Mr L is planning to expand the recruitment services and make them available for other eastern European citizens (e.g. former USSR). In order to do that at the moment he is looking at expanding his knowledge in the area of the legal status and possible facilitations of recruiting and employing in Poland citizens from Russia, Moldova, Georgia or Armenia. Another idea for expansion is organization of cultural and entertainment events for companies.

While establishing a business Mr L didn’t use any external help and did everything on his own, as his command of Polish is very good. He did not have any business experiences that could be used or any financial support (apart form his own funds). One of the sources of information he indicated as useful for potential entrepreneurs were brochures for entrepreneurs (that he used) available on the internet and different offices he visited during registration of the company. Though not meeting any particular problems, Mr L claims that there is not enough information and support for the average foreign entrepreneur and more focus should be put on developing information and support by the Polish authorities (especially in the area of EU funds for entrepreneurship and development of new companies). 

In Mr L’s opinion Poland is very attractive for immigrant entrepreneurs, however legal regulations (that are complicated and change often ) as well as issues with the skills of Polish civil servants (where some gaps in education, especially in foreign languages and current legislation can be identified) are obstacles in the development of immigrant led firms. However, Mr L states that the potential success of one’s business depend most of all on an individual’s own skills and character, and their persistence in overcoming problems in dealing with the authorities. Further obstacles for immigrant entrepreneurs in Poland Mr L identified were; foreigners are only allowed to establish companies that operate in partnership, it is impossible to establish a company while having an short-term (usually 6 month period) visa, the business registration process is very long and difficult, there is very little or no support from the officials during the process of registration.

The only help in operating his business that Mr L encountered was offered to him by a few non-government organizations. Some of them, have as their mission, support for foreigners that have moved to Poland. Nevertheless, despite the identified problems (that refer mainly to the initial stage of running the business) he concluded that at the moment he is not encountering many difficulties. However the advice from him for potential immigrant entrepreneurs would be to prepare for a long process of company registration and lack of support from public institutions. 

Education and Culture Lifelong Learning Programme
© 2011 ELIE Project
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.