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Duration: 2002-2003

Project description: Frontiers is a project for and organized by entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam area in the Netherlands. The project offers professional assistance for successful entrepreneurship in a multicultural economy for both ethnic and native entrepreneurs.


The colonial history of European countries, the arrival of immigrant workers and the overall mobility of the world population has lead to a change in the structure of European societies. Businesses are expected to cope with these changes. Despite the Netherlands being a small country all sorts of nationalities are now living together. There is an especially high concentration of ethnic groups in the four largest cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. With close to half of the population in these cities being of an ethnic background the demands of (ethnic) consumers differ making the use of etno- and multicultural marketing a necessary fact. It goes without saying that learning how to deal with a multicultural (local or national) is of great importance.


Awareness of a multicultural economy is important for both ethnic and native entrepreneurs. The latter need more insight on how to play on ethnic consumers. Ethnic enterprises need more insight in how to expand and grow into national markets as these generally attend to a co-ethnic clientele. How can one attempt to accomplish this?


The Frontiers Coaching Project is a project for and organized by entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam region. The project offers professional assistance for successful entrepreneurship in multicultural economies. Frontiers is an initiative of the business consultancy agency Crossnotions in cooperation with the Rotterdam Development Corporation, The Rotterdam Chamber of Commerce and the ING bank. Participants of this project are both native and ethnic companies which may either be starters or experienced entrepreneurs. The service package for new enterprises mainly focuses on creating a clear view of the supply, obtaining corporate skills and establishing a business networks. More experienced companies are offered a service package concentrating on the corporate strategy, managerial skills and working agreements. So far Frontiers successfully completed its first and second year (Frontiers I and Frontiers II) in which an average of 30 companies were assisted at a time. Frontiers III has not yet officially started due to cuts in expenditure by the local government. However, the services are still available. This case study will concentrate on the latest completed Frontiers initiative: Frontiers II.

A lot of projects have been launched to help ethnic entrepreneurs. However, most of these projects tend to focus on the underprivileged entrepreneurs. The potentials of ethnic entrepreneurship are therefore not brought in the limelight. The project searches ethnic entrepreneurs well-placed for success.


The Frontiers Coaching Project aims to reach successful ethnic entrepreneurs on one hand and help them form a base to break through to national markets. On the other hand the project aims to assist native entrepreneurs in their quest to be able to play on ethnic consumers. This is done in a timeframe of a year. The project tries not to focus on bottlenecks, but on market development and the ambition and core competence of enterprises instead.


Frontiers II consists of individual and collective activities. A matching programme makes up part of the collective activities. Entrepreneurs are brought into contact with franchise organisations, suppliers, entrepreneurial associations, interest groups etc. and participate in conferences hosted by others. The individual activities consist of participating entrepreneurs being individually supervised by a confidential advisor. Services amongst others include strategy, financial and human resource management support; Advice on accommodation, sector and governmental issues etc.

The Frontiers II project consists of divided into two phases:

Phase I: Acquisition

Within a maximum of three months, entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam region are selected to participate in the project. Entrepreneurs are evaluated by an advisory board before they can take part in the project. Criteria for participation are:

The entrepreneur must be active in a sector with a potentially high success factor; The enterprise has to have a growth potential; The enterprise has to have a distinctive presence. (product, service or formula) The entrepreneur has to possess good entrepreneurial skills.

Phase II: Supervision

In the second phase entrepreneurs are intensively assisted over a period of 12 months after which a final evaluation takes place. Evaluations also occur during the project. The advisory board evaluates to what extent the participants have developed by using the following questions as a guideline:

Does the entrepreneur know their own market? What are the chances of sustainability? (Strong partners, partners, networks etc) Does the entrepreneur posses management skills? Is there question of a growth prognosis? Is there a business concept present that can be financed?


The results of the Frontiers II Coaching Project can be summarized as the following:

29 entrepreneurs were eventually selected 12 entrepreneurs were fully supervised 9 dropped out after the intake conversation 7 different nationalities were brought together during the project and successfully developed a network.

The most popular sectors were the services, retail and wholesale sector. Four out of the twelve supervised entrepreneurs experienced an increase in personnel. Half of the entrepreneurs experienced an increase in their turnover during supervision. An inventory research came up with strengths and weakness common amongst the participants. The characteristics in the overview below are not valid for every individual entrepreneur, but form general characteristics for most of the entrepreneurs taking part in Frontiers II.


Young entrepreneurs Fluent in the Dutch language Flexible management Great ambitions Fixed clientele Diversity in offer Multicultural market as target group


Questionable liquidity Management skills (unable to delegate) Inexperienced personnel Little promotional activities Limited assortment Little collaboration and partnerships One sided business network


Supervision has ensured that the entrepreneurs are now confident to make their breakthrough to ethnic or native markets (depending on their request). Support focussed on the specific qualities of entrepreneur has lead to a quicker breakthrough on the desired market (either ethnic or local). One of the remarkable things is that the entrepreneurs do not only form networks on the Dutch market but also do this in foreign countries, usually the country of origin in the case of ethnic entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is dealt with differently. The way entrepreneurship is handled depends on the field of activity and not the ethnic background. The Frontiers II Coaching Project has resulted in some positive spin-off effects which should be taken into account. The integration of different cultures for example has lead to advice not necessarily being given from one nationality to another (e.g. Turkish supervisor vs. Turkish entrepreneur). Important players such as banks, local governments, accountants and branch organisations have become aware of ethnic entrepreneurs and consumers being an interesting target group.


Crossnotions - Frontiers II Schiedamse Vest 40 3011 BA Rotterdam Telephone: +31 (0)10 442 75 89 Fax: +31 (0)10 442 72 10 Email:info(at)