From ex-Yugoslavia to a not yet multi-ethnic Germany to starting up at the peak of economic crisis


By Francesca Ferrario*

When asked when he first thought of starting up in the automotive industry, Muamer Babajic jokes, “I didn’t think, because if I had known what I had to go through I’d have probably never started!”

He describes his company Masterwerk as “a segment in the chain of car production. We design and manufacture car components, as well as providing robotic programming for the automotive sector.”

Muamer opened his company in 2009 in Munich, when the financial crisis was at its peak. He had studied business administration, had worked in sales for his family business and for a mechanical engineering company which deals with metal processing. “Starting up in the automotive sector was a sort of coincidence” he says, “I just put together all my competences.”

After starting Masterwerk Muamer bootstrapped for two years and, he says, “it wasn’t fun”. During that period Masterwerk went through up and downs without generating profit. “I had to do several sacrifices, but the main problem was that I felt alone. I collaborated with a friend initially, but I was the only one investing money in it. Our respective commitments were different and we ended up taking two separate paths. Moreover, my parents weren’t happy at all — you know they grew up in former Yugoslavia under harder conditions and a secure job was what mattered for them” he recalls. “Being in this situation, a mentor would have helped me a lot. I would have probably spent less time on problems which were not as complicated as I thought. Yet, I learnt that if you fail at least don’t lose the lesson.”

Masterwerk went on. Muamer says that the winning element was the passion for what he does, “I love being efficient, delivering on time, and doing exactly what we promise. This is not always easy because we have few partners who don’t always respect deadlines and the quality standards we expect. The skill lies in being able to deal with these situations. For example, if a contractor has not done a good job, we want to listen, understand the reasons of his/her issues and help him/her deliver better.”

However, he admits, “I’m lucky of being based in Munich because generally people work very efficiently and there are many resources. Probably it wouldn’t have been a successful venture, had I been elsewhere.”

Being German citizen has had strong impact on Muamer’s motivation. As he points out, “In this country you will never starve. If you lose everything, there are services to provide you with shelter, food and even a job. The motivation I had to keep going was not money, because I knew financial security was not the biggest problem. I just wanted to start up something which works very efficiently and I found my place in the automotive sector. I created something by myself, but I feel part of something bigger: every time I see a new model of car I think that somehow I participated to its creation.”

Before being (also) German, Muamer was Yugoslavian and then Bosnian. “I was born in 1980 in Germany, but my family immediately moved back to former Yugoslavia and I stayed there for ten years. Just before the war in 1990 we returned again to Munich. I learnt German and did my schooling here, but it wasn’t very easy.” At the time Germany was not as multi-ethnic as it is now and prejudices tended to prevail.

“My face and my surname don’t look Bavarian at all” laughs Muamer, “In daily life I would always be reminded that I was not German. I won’t go into details, but the problem was that whatever effort I put into things, my achievements were not normally recognised. The assumption was that if you came from a different place you were intrinsically unable to understand things the same way a local did. Anyway I managed to do well and used to score better than many of my classmates. Yet my teacher, instead of encouraging me, used to tell me to take extra German language classes to keep up with the others! Whatever activity I was involved in, it was always made clear that I was the ‘different’ one who needed to be treated differently.”

Muamer, however, acknowledges that Germany has changed a lot in the past decade and is now much more open to cultural diversity. “Here in Munich you can see many entrepreneurs from abroad. The city is more open minded and probably for this reason many are welcoming refugees” he says, “I am proud of living here.”

Masterwerk has become such a successful company that is now ready to acquire and it is preparing to do it with a very global eye. The road to achieve this point has not been easy, but as Muamer says, “If Jimi Hendrix hadn’t played guitar with his teeth or behind his back, he wouldn’t be Jimi Hendrix. Doing things the hard way help you learn the meaning of good work because that’s the only means to get your business going and be successful.”

*Francesca Ferrario manages the MigrantEntrepreneurs Europe website, a storytelling platform on migrant entrepreneurship in Europe.

You can read the original article here.


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