Ibrahim* was arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned in Homs Prison for a year and a half before he fled Syria. “My experience in entrepreneurship has been a rather unforeseen one.” He did not expect that the prison walls would house his first steps towards one day starting his own enterprise in Paris, France. While incarcerated, Ibrahim created and managed three different projects in order to cater for the basic needs of the prisoners, such as feeding and teaching inmates English.
This bottom-up approach is lacking on the social level, but is characteristic of the entrepreneurs partaking in SPARK’s first programme in Western Europe, The Human Safety Net for Refugee Start-Ups (THSN), funded by Generali. Ibrahim was explaining his story to a group of his peers during the recent Entrepreneurs’ Salon Lunch at the refugee business incubator, Singa France, in Paris.
The lunch – catered for by Sriyani Perera, a refugee entrepreneur from Sri Lanka – brought together young business people to share ideas and provide information about what the THSN programme can offer. Asside from business trainings, incubation and coaching, Singa’s President, Hamze Ghalebi, himself an entrepreneurial Iranian political refugee, explained that THSN also supports the social needs of migrant and refugee status-holders. For example, networking opportunities are an integral element of the programme in order to support the organic creation of connections between start-ups and established businesses by young entrepreneurs. We see social capital as vital for the sustainability of start-ups.
Surrounded by community leaders and other organisations currently investing in the migrant workforce in France, the entrepreneurs presented their business ideas and exchanged business cards for future partnerships. We, at SPARK and Singa France, are excited to support the next intake of enterprising individuals in France!
*Real names have been changed to protect identity.