Iveta from Sweet Creations by Iveta (Rotterdam, NL)

Meet culinary artist Iveta. She says “My art is a form of meditation in some ways for me. I like to create eye-catching creations which brings a joy to my customers. While creating my cakes I don't count my time. I give all my attention to the details so I can fulfill my customers' desires by 100%”.
Her story begins 11 years ago when she together with her family decided to emigrate in the Netherlands. Iveta says “Period after emigration was not as easy as expected. I was searching for a job that would bring me joy. Sweets creation in an artistic way makes me happy not only of creation process but I am also happy when clients gives me compliments for the final result.
Learn more about Iveta and her work here:

Stanislava - Entrepreneur and a mother (NL)

Stanislava came to the Netherlands eight years ago from Bulgaria. She is a single mom who runs two successful businesses and takes care of her daughter with a serious chronic condition.
"When I came here, it was easier for me to start my own business than to find an employment. The easiest business was cleaning. I could speak English, and I immediately had a lot of clients. In the beginning, I needed external help with accounting, but now I am doing it myself.
When I started, I was working 60 hours per week. It’s only possible if you have your own business. As an employee, you can't work for more than 40 hours. But this is in my nature, I am always working hard.
"The Netherlands is a really good place for starting your own business. You can get advice on taxes and your business plan from local authorities and from the Chamber of Commerce. Of course, you need to know exactly what you want to do.
There are also disadvantages for small businesses. You need to take care of all the insurances, and if you have less clients, your income drops.
"The most difficult here is to establish social contacts. What I miss here is a social life. For many years, I have not got any friends here. In Bulgaria, all my friends were either from school, university, or from my work.
How can I get a Dutch friend? I have different experience, different problems, different interests. I feel a bit lonely here...
"What I like about the Dutch is that they are direct: ‘Yes’ means ‘yes’ and ‘no’ means ‘no’, it’s very clear. I like it. People here always stay calm and polite. In Bulgaria people often show their anger, can raise their voice. Here, even people on the street which you don't know can smile and say ‘Hello’ and you can chat with a stranger about the weather. I find it absolutely wonderful!

Irina - Photographer & MUAH (Sweden)

My name is Irina Zayakina. I am 37 years old and come from Russia. My background is in arts, design, and history. For the past 15 years I have been working as a photographer and makeup artist and hairstylist (MUAH). I live in Stockholm since 2018.
Here in Sweden I organize and participate in various fashion and photography initiatives both as a photographer and a MUAH. My most recent project was Stockholm International Fashion Fair, an event where young fashion designers from all over the world presented their collections. For my own projects I enjoy creating complete images for my models: I select clothes, styles, and locations. The most important thing, however, is to be inspired by the model and see the beauty that maybe even she cannot see herself, as often happens.
Unearthing this beauty is mostly psychological help essential to my work. The clearest example is "reboot" projects for women immersed in their household chores or burned out at work. Seeing yourself turn into a superstar or a princess inspires to positive changes and raises self esteem. The same applies to charity projects for mothers of children with special needs, those projects help them switch from the daily routine and get strength to keep going and not giving up.
I arrived to Sweden while on parental leave and the main priority was to set up the household and take care of the child while at the same time dealing with cultural shock and the difference in mindsets. Because of that I moved all creative plans and work ambitions to the background. The initial problem was quite typical – the language. For starters I had to recall my English since learning Swedish was difficult for me. Another unpleasant situation was the fact that 2 university diplomas did not count here and I had to confirm my qualifications. The process is not over yet and I am still deciding on my next step. I expected these difficulties in advance. What I did not expect was the European privacy protecting law GDPR that inhibit my ability to do reporting and genre photography. Another issue is that the beauty standards and values are completely different as well as the attitude towards photography and demand for it. Compared to where I come from, the scene is 10 years in the past and innovation is inappropriate and in low demand. It's a world in itself and I had to adapt. I felt myself inside "Back to the Future" film. I was surprised by the lack of rental infrastructure for small businesses, one needs to have own equipment and studio which is quite expensive.
My advice for other women is to start learning the local language or English as soon as possible, also translate and confirm your qualifications. Make yourself known as much as you can, if there is no work at the moment, focus your efforts on advertising. Meet new people and make connections. A small talk goes a long way.

Darya from Darya Artworks (Sweden)

My name is Darya. I am a botanical and nature artist. I work in different media, such as watercolors, acrylics and colored pencils. My brand is called Darya Artworks.
I am originally from Minsk, Belarus, but moved to Sweden in 2013 along with my husband, PhD student at that time. I had never planned to live in Sweden, therefore, my first years here were very challenging. I found a job at the City Hall of Stockholm and my task was to give guided tours in Chinese, English
and Russian. In 2016 I became a mother, and my perception of the world changed completely. It was the first time in many years that I picked up a brush and started painting just to distract myself from the daily routines. Sitting in the kitchen at night and painting flowers became a therapy and meditation to me, and as time went by, I learned to channel my emotional and physical energy into my artwork.
There were many people in my surrounding who encouraged me to go further with my art and start a business. The idea itself was very tempting, but I had no idea where and how to start. I only knew that I loved natural history and botanical art and wanted to show it to the world. A few years later I became more confident about my art. I painted a lot, took different courses in botanical painting, studied theory and art history. The idea of starting a business no more seemed impossible, and I decided it was time to educate myself on the topic by reading books, listening to podcasts, exploring other artists’ websites and portfolios. I had to learn a lot and develop entrepreneurial skills. There were days when I felt that I was pushing myself through countless obstacles and wanted to give up. Fortunately, I didn’t, and after several months of information consumption and learning, I decided to create a website where I would sell fine art prints of my watercolor paintings. I launched a website on my own, invested much money in special equipment, created Darya Artworks profiles in social media and worked very hard to promote myself as an artist. It was a great amount of work, and it paid off. However, I would not recommend anyone to do the same: sometimes it is better to outsource certain tasks and let professionals do their job. You will win time and energy, and you will definitely need it as an artist. Anyhow, my website is now online, and I am very proud of it. One can purchase fine art prints of my botanical and nature paintings printed on the museum-grade paper with a smooth texture, reminiscent of the original genuine etching and printmaking papers, which makes my prints practically indistinguishable from the originals.
In 2020 I had a solo exhibition where I sold some of my originals and fine art prints. I am looking forward to new exhibitions, as soon as the situation with pandemic gets back to normal. Today I gladly accept art commissions and am happy to collaborate with brands. A few months ago I decided to learn digital illustration to challenge myself and expand opportunities. Looking forward to the new adventure!
Last, but no least, I would like to encourage other women to follow their dreams. The path is not always easy, and you might not find the support you need in your surrounding in the beginning. Don’t let it stop you. Find the people that inspire you, communicate with those that support you, listen to those who criticize you, but learn how to distinguish constructive criticism from the destructive. Educate yourself, the more you get to know, the better. Get in touch with the people who inspire you, don’t be afraid ask for advice. Don’t force yourself to do something that makes you unhappy, consider asking for help. It will cost you money, but it will save your energy and time. Be kind to yourself and don’t be discouraged if something goes wrong. We are all humans, and we make mistakes, and our mistakes help us gain knowledge, evolve and eventually succeed.

Nour -mother, wife, teacher, volunteer & chairperson of the association & full-time student (Sweden)

My name is Nour and that means ‘light’ in Arabic. I studied English literature at the University of Damascus and worked as a teacher.
August 2014 I came to Sweden and began a language journey in my new country. Just after a week in Sweden I went to the municipality and offered my help as a volunteer. I worked as a volunteer with a female group that met on Saturdays at an asylum accommodation center. I also made many Swedish friends, but spoke only English with them at the time. The following year I went to school and trained my new language by writing letters in Swedish to my new friends. A few months of hard work consisting of reading books, studying grammar, attending language cafes, inviting Swedish friends to dinner, visiting
everyone in the area where I lived, talking to people while waiting for the elevator, gave results: summer 2015 I received a grade in Swedish as a second language (my first grade in Sweden).
In parallel with my studies I continued with volunteering and interpreting work, as it was and still is important for me to help and share my experience with others. A key to that in a new country is learning its language. Through extra work as a babysitter for two Swedish-speaking families, an internship at school as a teaching assistant (with aim partly to practice Swedish and partly to understand how the Swedish school works), a temporary teaching position (with responsibility for a Swedish class), I received a job offer from the principal of a language center "Språkcentrum" to be a studying supervisor and mother tongue teacher.
Ultimately I managed to find my way here in Sweden with housing, language, friends and that was why I wanted to help others to succeed. I strived to do something meaningful and therefore in the middle of 2017 I founded a non-profit association called "Together we are strong" aiming to help newcomers to learn Swedish language faster, get necessary help and support in their new country, help people finding jobs and right education, motivate them to be more active and take initiatives. In July 2017 I received an email from a manager of Youth Foundation Fryshuset offering me a position of teacher of ‘Swedish for Foreigners’ courses.
In 2018 I’ve got a permanent job. It gave me possibility to develop my language knowledge and advance in my Swedish in order to apply for a supplementary education to legitimize my foreign education and teacher’s diploma. I have a semester left to become a certified teacher in Sweden. I am also very interested in social issues and therefore I studied 60 credits in political science. That was the first step on the way to master studies in language and culture.
And that is who I am – Nour, mother of 3 wonderful children, strong wife, teacher, volunteer and chairman of the association and full-time student.
If you ask me about my experience in Sweden as a migrant woman, I can say that recent years, many people moved here not voluntarily but due to war and unrest in their home countries. Some of them want to continue their ways of life, some want to continue working or studying, but in general all have a common goal – they want to feel safe, integrate well and be able to contribute to their new society. The challenge of succeeding in these is first of all – communication and building bridges to their new society and community.
We established the association because it is difficult to orientate oneself in a new country before mastering its language. As it is a challenge to be not only new, but also not to be acquainted with the country’s norms and values, while it is expected that you follow them. It is also hard to know what way is the most effective. Thus the goal of the association is to help the newcomers to understand how different systems work and what authorities to turn to. It brings feeling of safety and understanding that they have ability to control their own lives and choose own path. Through various activities, the association contributes to successful integration and inclusion as only by taking an active role one can find the solutions.
However, it is not easy to be a woman with immigrant background, a mother of children, an ambitious person with high goals and responsibility for other people. A desire to contribute to societal development was my most important goal. It was not difficult to learn the language, get a job and know society and it was not difficult for me to show my acquaintances and friends how I contributed to the integration and society in general. What is more, everyone thinks I am a smart girl. However, it was rather difficult to get any support from someone who could guide me through an easier way to achieve my goals and ambitions. I have worked as a volunteer since I came to Sweden because I am very passionate about it. But it was difficult for me to find a job in this area to work with what I was interested in. Although, I have a teacher background, I wish to work as an integration manager or coordinator because I have a great deal of experience in that.
Sweden is indeed a place of opportunities, an open and democratic country that also implies a responsibility. Each individual bears responsibility towards his/her own integration and development. Similarly, women-newcomers have to find effective tools and driving force within themselves and believe in it. The road is not straight, but everything will be easier after taking the first step. Then you can look ahead and see that today is absolutely better than yesterday.

Rut - business owner (Italy)

Greetings from Rut Fasil, Italy!
This is her story: “I arrived in Italy in November 1983 from Eritrea and I joined my parents who had been working in Rome since 1979. The integration process was not difficult. I initially attended an Italian language course of 5 hours a day for 5 days a week for about two months. Then I started attending school until I graduated accountancy in 1989. I was working as a trainee at the accounting firm. Since 1991 I have worked as a labor consultant accountant both as an employee and as an external consultant. Since 2000 I open my own business - professional advice on immigration and social inclusion of migrants. This was a passion more than a business, for personal interest. I have noticed the difficulty of foreigners and also of my family in trying to orient themselves in all the formalities to be fulfilled to remain in Italy in a legal way. The difficulty of understanding the legislation, the infinite number of documents to be presented at each renewal and the ease of becoming illegal for foreigners convinced me to work in this field”.