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Business Because

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Social Enterprise: Aston MBA’s New App Helps Refugees Find Jobs

According to UN figures, there are 65 million people in the world now officially registered as refugees, living in temporary camps awaiting resettlement. 4.9 million are from Syria.

Only 134,000 refugees were resettled in 2015. Millions more live in informal settlements or slums, or are in transition from one location to another. Most are isolated and jobless.

Onaseye Onabolu, an MBA student at the UK’s Aston Business School, has just launched a new app which will allow the world’s refugees to develop professional networks and connect with local employers.

Like a LinkedIn for displaced persons, Sona Circle lets users build professional profiles, share their skills and professional backgrounds, network with organizations, and apply for jobs. The free-to-download Apple iOS app is designed to tackle issues around labor force participation and social integration.

“We want to restore the rights and dignity of five million refugees by 2022,” says Onaseye, who runs the social enterprise with his co-founder and ex-Apple software designer Archi Troko.

“The mission of Sona Circle is to formalize an informal ecosystem; to empower refugees to share their skills and talents and build a better future for themselves and their families,” he continues. “We aim to help connect refugees with employers, government agencies, aid organizations, and, most importantly, each other.”

The journey towards Sona Circle began when Onaseye and his three team-mates – Michael McKay, Dr. Raja Pappu, and Tamara Waltho – were selected out of over 50,000 candidates and 12,500 teams to compete at the annual international Hult Prize regional finals in London. The focus of the competition: to build social enterprises to combat the global refugee crisis.

Through his MBA experience at Aston, Onaseye had the opportunity to present his idea at an MBA mentor dinner held at Aston Villa soccer club. His team also won the 2017 Aston Uni Hack competition and were finalists at Aston Enterprise and Santander Business Start-Up competition.

When Onaseye – a serial entrepreneur and CIMA-qualified management accountant – last spoke to BusinessBecause, he was looking to develop his own Africa-focused investment consultancy, and drive impact investing in Africa.

Onaseye will graduate with an MBA from Aston later this year. He’s now looking for funding for Sona Circle. With his latest social enterprise project, he hopes to start out in Europe and grow internationally over the next five years.

“Aston Business School has been particularly good at encouraging MBA candidates to take part in various startup competitions such as Aston Uni Hack, Aston Enterprise, and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business initiative,” says Onaseye.

“Suffice to say, we are not short of advisors, mentors and partners. Even a couple of venture capital firms have shown a keen interest in supporting the project,” he continues.

“Without the support from Aston’s entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance departments, as well as from members of the MBA cohort itself, none of this would have been possible.”

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House of Humanity Refugee Centre in Lesbos Pt 1

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Sandy is a 30-year-old refugee from Nepal who currently lives on the Island of Lesbos in Greece. She previously worked as a marketing manager in Nepal before switching to a career in Nursing to look after her grandmother when she fell ill. Hear Sandy’s story about her life prior to becoming displaced.

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Aston Business School

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MBA launches app to empower refugees

An MBA student at Aston Business School has launched a smartphone app which could help millions of refugees get back into work and resume normal life.

Onaseye Onabolu has transformed his team’s Hult Prize concept into a real business, launching his co-founded company SONA Circle, an app that has multiple venture capital firms curious.

There are over 65 million refugees around the world living in temporary accommodation, refugee camps or transitioning from one location to another. SONA Circle is a professional networking app that aims to restore their access to employment opportunities by connecting people with each other, companies, governments and aid organisations.

The app will enable refugees to share their skills and employment background on their profile, share posts to a news feed and send public and private messages. Employers will be able to find nearby users who possess the skills they are looking for.

SONA Circle co-founder and current Full-Time MBA student, Onaseye Onabolu said that his team had received advice and support from a network of contacts including the Aston MBA Programme Director Kirit Vaidya, MBA Careers Consultant, Paul Schoonenberg, and Carolyn Keenan who manages start-up incubator, BSEEN.

“Aston Business School encourages MBA candidates to take part in the various start-up competitions such as Aston Uni Hack, Aston Enterprise, BSEEN platform and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businessinitiative. Members of staff support our ideas and the MBA cohort itself contains some key talent without whom, none of this would have been possible.

“Along the journey, we had the opportunity to present our social enterprise idea at an MBA Mentor Dinner held at Aston Villa Football Club, we’ve had news articles featured on the Aston University website and in alumni publications and even an interview with The Sunday Times.  Suffice to say we are not short of advisors, mentors and partners.”

You can read the article here