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Refugee Council of Australia
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Ignite Small Business Start-Ups

Ignite – an initiative to help refugees in NSW start their own businesses.

What?

Ignite Small Business Start-ups (Ignite) is an initiative developed by Settlement Services International (SSI) to facilitate small business creation for refugees living in NSW. Ignite works with refugees who aim to establish a small business or expand an existing one. Business start-ups are achieved through providing clients with enterprise facilitation, business mentoring, access to interpreters and networks. The aim of the initiative is to allow the client to achieve a livelihood in an entrepreneurial area they are familiar with, and one which will allow them to support themselves and their families.

Who?

Ignite works with people from refugee backgrounds in Sydney who would like to use their entrepreneurial skills to interact with and directly participate in the Australian business environment.

Why?

SSI is committed to supporting people to achieve meaningful social and economic participation in their community, and to assist individuals and families to reach their potential.

Ignite supports the settlement process of newly arrived refugees, by helping them overcome the barriers associated with building a meaningful enterprise in the early stages of their settlement.
Studies show that people from a refugee background display strong entrepreneurial qualities, with a higher than average proportion engaging in small and medium business compared to the general Australian population. However, research indicates that even after three years in Australia, one third of refugee-humanitarian entrants remain unemployed or do not have access to enterprise commencement.

Ignite Small Business Start-ups provides free, confidential and on-going business start-up support for those refugees with a passion for business, many of whom were successful business people overseas. These entrepreneurs who have skills and experience overseas in business can access facilitation support services to allow them to navigate and familiarise themselves with the more complex and challenging Australian business network.

How?

SSI case managers identify passionate entrepreneurs and refer them to the Ignite Enterprise Facilitator in the first instance.

The client is interviewed by the Enterprise Facilitator who provides one-on-one assistance and guidance to each client, using interpreters where necessary to support limited English language skills and meeting where it is most convenient for the client.

The client is then referred to the lgnite Business Mentor to further develop their business plan and link the client to relevant business networks including access to financial support.

A Resource Team also supports the Ignite initiative and provides pro bono links to relevant networks for the Ignite client as well as expertise, business knowledge and skills with the aim of broadening knowledge and understanding of issues including local laws, suppliers and business networks. The Resource Team is made up of local business owners, members of local councils, community organisations and chambers of commerce.

Currently, this initiative is self-funded by SSI, which as an organisation is committed to ensuring that vulnerable communities, including refugees, humanitarian entrants and people seeking asylum, in NSW are supported and resourced to fulfil their potential as members of the Australian community. However, SSI welcomes donations and potential funders for the Ignite initiative.

Successes

To date, the Ignite Small Business Start-Ups initiative has supported the establishment of 20 small businesses.

One example of an Ignite entrepreneur is Ms Sima Mahboobifard who, with the help of Ignite, established Bags of Love and Peace three months after she had arrived in Australia with her family.

The launch of the initiative in November 2014 drew interest from local and state politicians, businesses, stakeholders and community organisations.

Challenges

Many of the clients suffer from physical and mental health issues, lack of secure housing and income and a lack of English skills necessary to grasp the differences between their home market and the Australian market.

Potential entrepreneurs are unaware of where to source raw materials for their business and whether it is viable to pursue their business in Australia. They often face a lack of start-up capital and a credit history, as well as an understanding of the bureaucracy and administration necessary for a small business in Australia.

Advice for others

Many refugees are diligent and eager to contribute socially and economically. The focus needs to be on cooperating with and guiding these entrepreneurs, rather than building their businesses for them, in order to ensure the viability and sustainability of their enterprise.

For more information, please contact:
Email: dpetrakis@ssi.org.au (Dina Petrakis)
M: 0478 103 290

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