The We-Go Story: MeetUp with Ahmed Dublat
"He handed me his car keys, and I started to do my thing", responded Ahmed to a question at the Touchpoints Business MeetUp about incidents that challenged him when he started his business. Ahmed Dublat, a Syrian entrepreneur, fought to establish his car cleaning business, We-Go. For instance, his business licence was refused twice, but he did not quit visiting the responsible office at the Ministry, the Chambre de Métiers, as well as other concerned parties, to get a favourable answer.
"You have to go out there, keep trying and even fight if you have to," he says.
It is challenging to get the necessary authorisations required to operate a craft-related business in Luxembourg, especially for migrants. In order to obtain his authorisation for a car washing business, Ahmed had to prove three years of experience, which in turn required obtaining written evidence from the Middle East.
Luxembourg is unique in this way, requiring three years of experience to launch a business in craft activities such as car cleaning, lawn maintenance, photography, film-making, graphic design and more. Furthermore, professions in baking, butchery, blacksmith, house painting, and more are protected by a Brevet de Maîtrise, which is up to six years of formal learning in the given graft in either German, French or both. With little or no credible reasons for such restrictions (protection from bankruptcy or better management skills are often cited, though they could well be obtained differently), many suspect they exist primarily to protect pre-existing businesses and curtail competition from newcomers, especially coming from neighbouring countries.
Some migrants have years of experience in professional crafts that are not standardised or formulated with certification in their home countries as the emphasis there is placed on practical learning. Some crafts do not even formally “exist” in the protected list of “métiers”, like the barber who falls under the general hairdresser. In Luxembourg, immigrants, some of whom have fled deadly wars and other devastating situations, are required to provide written evidence of their experience, like Ahmed who had to prove that he cleaned cars (professionally) for at least 3 years. Furthermore, these non-business inherent challenges add to a mountain of difficulties that prevent this group of aspiring entrepreneurs from starting businesses that tap into their particular interests and skills.
"So, I took the key and started cleaning the car", Ahmed continued. "To operate my steam cleaning machine, I use an electric power generator". He was cleaning a client's car at the client's workplace inside an indoor car park. As expected, the machine produced some fume and vapour.
"I forgot the car park had smoke sensors that can be triggered by water steam and soon, bammm! Loud fire alarm and water spraying everywhere", he said while laughing and participants of the business event all laughed with him. The incident, as he recounted, left him feeling withered as people panicked and came into the car park. "I told them I was there to wash their colleague's car", he said. Like his eventual successful establishment of We-Go, there was a happy ending to the fire alarm incident. The client’s colleagues laughed with Ahmed, collected his business cards and booked appointments for him to wash their cars too.