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

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

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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Refugees in Business and Entrepreneurship

Refugee Business EntrepreneurshipReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Refugee Business Entrepreneurship

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

Historically, refugees have had great success in business and entrepreneurship around the world. From Michael Marks, a Jewish refugee who became the co-founder of Marks and Spencers in 1884, to Jan Koum who fled to the United States from Kiev and later became the co-founder and CEO of Whatsapp, refugees have used their hard work and a wide skill set to innovate and prosper in business.

Hamdi Ulkykaya, Chobani

A great example of this is Hamdi Ulkykaya who in 2005 founded the food company Chobani, which is the number one selling strained yoghurt in the United States. As of 2019, Ulkykaya was worth $2 billion and was named one of the most important entrepreneurs of the past decade by Inc. magazine.

However, prior to this success, Ulkykaya was forced to leave Turkey due to the oppression that the Kurdish minority group faced. Based on his own experiences as a refugee, Ulkykaya has demonstrated how to be successful in business whilst also protecting vulnerable people. In 2015, he announced that he would donate the majority of his wealth to help refugees around the world.

Additionally, within his own business, Ulkykaya ensures that a minimum of 30% of employees are immigrants or refugees. In order to hold other businesses to a similar standard, Ulkykaya set up the TENT foundation which encourages businesses to support refugees by hiring them and integrating refugee-led businesses into supply chains.

Mursal Hedayat, Chatterbox

Mursal and her success in the tech industry is another example of a former refugee thriving in business. Despite being forced to flee Afghanistan with her mother and sister early in life, Hedayat was named one of the Top Most Influential Leaders in Tech by the Financial Times and a Leading Innovator Under 35 by MIT.

This is thanks to her success in co-founding Chatterbox, an online language and cultural training programme which harnesses the skills and knowledge-base of refugees by employing them as teachers. So far over 6,000 Chatterbox classes have been taught since 2018, simultaneously helping learners develop their language ability and refugees build up their confidence and professional skills.

The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN)

In order to support refugees, so that they can replicate similar success in business to Hamdi Ulkykaya and Mursal Hedayat, the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) provides assistance to refugee entrepreneurs in the creation and development of their businesses. TERN currently supports 210 refugee entrepreneurs and has alumni who have gone on to have great success in their field.

Fatma Albaiti, Meet Me at Fatma’s

For example, Fatma Albaiti is a TERN alumnus who set up Meet Me at Fatma’s, a London-based Yemeni pop-up brunch. These events have routinely sold out and been popular with Londoners for providing delicious food as well as educating people about Yemeni culture. TERN assists refugee-led businesses through mentoring, and providing access to resources and business networks.

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If you are able to, it’s great to support refugee-led businesses. There are many ways in which you can show your support for businesses that are founded by refugees. For example, you can broaden your culinary horizons by visiting different restaurants, or by exploring different cultures via refugee-led music and entertainment events (read more about it here).

Another essential way to show your support is by encouraging your organisation to employ refugees. In this way, you can help to create truly life-changing opportunities for refugees and support them with further integration in their adopted home country. If you’re wondering how to start these conversations at your office, get in touch as we’d love to help. Check out some tips here.