It's hard to start a new business in the middle of a financial crisis, when money is scarce. It's even harder when you're a refugee.
But these women—these new business owners, all displaced from Syria and far from home—they are rising to the challenge.
A growing group of women at a refugee camp for Syrians are joining the ranks of small business owners, thanks to our empowerment program. They can’t afford to wait until the war in Syria ends to rebuild their lives—they are creating a future for their families now.
We meet with them in their modest cinder block homes, discuss their skills, and negotiate how we might be able to provide the tools they need to create income for their families.
To date, each of these women has received a sewing machine. Each is making dresses and other garments for their neighbors. But with a tight economy, especially so in refugee camps, they look for every opportunity to diversify!
They can't afford to wait until the war in Syria ends to rebuild their lives.
Many of these women are skilled not only in sewing, but also in crochet and knitting. When we gathered to see their work, they brought plastic grocery bags stuffed full of beautiful, soft garments, created one stitch at a time by their own hands. Everything was rich in hope and culture—including bright yellow, red, and green pieces created in the colors of their Kurdish homeland in Syria.
We encouraged our Syrian friends to try a bit of an experiment—to try selling pre-made items at a craft sale in a local park, instead of only making custom goods. We couldn’t make any promises about sales, but they were eager to try, eager to find new customers for their work outside the fenced perimeter of their refugee camp.
Every woman sold something from the table of cozy goods. Some sold more, some less—as you would expect for young businesses.
But when we gathered today to return the items that weren't sold, and to distribute the money the women had earned, there was a buzz in the room.
Each women was eager to hear how the sale went. They were eager for details about what sold well, and what price points sold best. We discussed color and texture choices, which items drew potential customers to the table and which drew out their wallets.
We discussed the next time.
The next time, because these ladies are motivated to make the most of the skills they have. They will continue to tweak their products until they find the sweet spot, where their gifts and the community’s needs line up perfectly.
We want you to know that every dollar you invest empowering refugees, providing small business grants, and giving them the tools they need to succeed is a direct investment in a skilled, tenacious and hopeful-despite-the-odds person.
Help Syrian refugees start small businesses, provide for their families, and rebuild thier lives.