Three Refugee Entrepreneurship Success Stories in the EU

Many refugees in Europe face challenges in their journey to becoming entrepreneurs. Refugees often have limited access to capital due to a lack of credit history, face bureaucratic restrictions on starting work while waiting for their asylum application to be accepted, and language barriers that make communication and marketing difficult.

To celebrate World Refugee Day, we’re highlighting three organisations that help refugees to navigate these barriers and become entrepreneurs in Europe. 

Helping Ukrainian Refugees in Poland

Julia Boguslavska

When hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine fled to Poland following the Russian invasion, Julia Boguslavska recognised that the majority of these refugees were women and children. 

Recognising that these women with children may not have the flexibility to get into the Polish job market, she proposed entrepreneurship as a path to flexibility, independence and improved well-being. 

Julia created the Ukrainian Women in Poland project in March 2022 to support Ukrainian women refugees, offering psychological support, business training, and skill adaptation. This support is supported by local businesses, NGOs, and grants. 

The support goes beyond just entrepreneurship to help Ukrainians meaningfully integrate into Polish society, with training to adapt their skills and experiences to new living conditions, helping them believe in themselves again. 

Providing Job Opportunities for Skilled Refugees

Khaled Shaabam fled Syria as a refugee following the outbreak of war. On arriving in the Netherlands, Khaled didn’t even realise his background in ICT qualified him to be an entrepreneur.

Khaled began his journey to entrepreneurship providing ICT support and infrastructure to humanitarian organisations in Syria. 

This evolved into Khaled creating his own company, Subul Impact Outsourcing, which links skilled refugees with international firms, providing job opportunities to 500 refugees across the Middle East.

Khaled faced many challenges on his journey to entrepreneurship such as lengthy processes to open bank accounts and limited access to capital. Due to the long wait times to open bank accounts, up to four times as long as a Dutch citizen, Khaled had four bank accounts on the run due to the myriad of problems he faced as a refugee accessing capital. 

Khaled stresses the importance of establishing entrepreneurship offices in refugee centres to inform refugees about the entrepreneurial opportunities that are open to them that the may not know about. 

Supporting Refugee Startups in the Netherlands

Rahaf and Tamim

Forward Inc is a Netherlands-based organisation that helps newcomers with refugee backgrounds in the Netherlands pursue entrepreneurship. They provide training to launch, grow, fund and sustain their businesses. Forward Inc. has trained over 1000 newcomers and helped launch 132 businesses.

One of these businesses supported by Forward Inc is Daffee, founded by Rahaf Al Lymoni and Tamim Kbarh, who meant online while facing similar challenges due to war and visa issues. Rahaf sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2019, and following three years, Tamim joined her and they founded their own company Daffee, where they created a coffee alternative without caffeine from upcycled date seeds. 

Entrepreneurship for Everyone

As we celebrate World Refugee Day, it’s clear that supporting refugee entrepreneurship is not just about providing financial aid. It’s about fostering an environment where refugees can leverage their skills and creativity to build successful businesses. 

By addressing the unique challenges they face and offering tailored support, the EU can unlock the vast potential of refugee entrepreneurs, contributing to economic growth and social cohesion across the continent.

The content of this article was based on the panel “The Migrant Entrepreneurship Paradox: a Thought-Provoking Discussion” from Social Finance Vibe Conference 2023.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *