Meet Me at Fatma’s: An Inspirational Story of Refugees in Entrepreneurship

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By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

Meet Me at Fatma’s is a series of pop-up brunch shops which serve delicious food inspired by traditional Yemeni cuisine. The founder of this business, Fatma Al-Baiti says that each dish is served with its own twist and has been inspired by ‘a certain tradition practised in our household and the cities I was born or raised in’. 

Fatma is originally from Yemen, but after arriving in the UK to study for her master’s degree in 2014 she was unable to return to her country due to the conflict that was unfolding there. Now the conflict in Yemen has gone on for over five years, causing the death of over 12,000 civilians as well as extensive damage to infrastructure. But Fatma is keen for Yemen to be known for more than just conflict and instability. 

She explains, ‘I noticed that what people know about Yemen is limited to the war and the current political unrest. I wanted to inform them that there’s more to Yemen than a conflict’. 

Beyond the war, she says ‘Yemen is a beautiful country with a rich culture and very diverse cuisine that needs to be rediscovered with open minds and hearts’. 

Sharing Yemeni culture has been something that Fatma has definitely succeeded in. Tickets to each pop-up brunch sell out fast, and so far she has introduced over 150 Londoners to Yemeni cuisine. 

Whilst Fatma’s success can largely be attributed to her hard work, motivation and exciting cuisine, she was supported in getting her ideas off the ground by The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), of which she is now an alumnus. 

TERN supports refugee-led business in various ways, for Fatma TERN helped by ‘connecting me to those who have the knowledge and experience in the industry’. She says TERN ‘played an important role in getting Meet Me at Fatma’s set-up’. 

If you are a refugee with a business plan or know somebody who is, you can find TERN’s webpage here for more information about what they do and how they can help.

On the topic of refugees in business, I asked Fatma what advice she would pass on to companies who are planning on hiring refugees. Her response was to ‘remove the label refugee and treat them equal to everyone else’. 

She says, ‘refugees are often highly skilled and deserve the opportunity to be employed so they can start giving to their new society’. 

The success of Meet Me at Fatma’s is proof of the skills, knowledge and diverse perspectives that refugees can bring to businesses all over the world. 

Here at Sona Circle Recruitment, we help refugees to find work and training opportunities suited to their skills and experience. 

If you are a socially conscious employer and would like to get involved, you can find out more about how we can work with you to recruit from the skilled and dedicated refugee workforce by getting in touch with us. 

You can also support our new initiative #EqualTees where the money raised by each T-shirt sold goes directly towards supporting refugees into employment. 

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