Enterprise champions help Refugee Entrepreneurs overcome barriers to self-employment

Enterprise champions help Refugee Entrepreneurs overcome barriers to self-employment

In this guest blog for NEN, Felicity Blades from Start.Biz highlights some of the work that charities, non-profits organisations and enterprise agencies are undertaking, in order to help entrepreneurial newcomers to set-up, grow and thrive in their new home.

Understanding and appreciating that entrepreneurial newcomers are an incredible asset to the UK has become a mission for many charities and supporters of enterprise.

In the last four years Europe has seen the biggest influx of refugees and migrants since the Second World War. Since February 2022, a further 3.4 million people have fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine seeking refuge across western Europe.

Settling and building a successful life, after an often incredibly traumatic experience, is a huge undertaking – let alone starting a business. What help is out there and how can we support refugee entrepreneurs in our communities to access it?

Greater challenges, greater determination

Better Futures: Enabling Young Refugee Entrepreneurs is a collaborative multi-national project to “facilitate the empowerment of young refugees and asylum seekers, to achieve economic independence and further their social integration as successful entrepreneurs”. A recent study has found that “in the UK…migrant entrepreneurs are creating one in every seven new businesses.”

They are doing this whilst also facing an exceptionally unique set of challenges. The Better Futures Project Partners have carried out an in-depth European study to identify these issues and created a detailed report outlining ways to combat the specific challenges that were identified.

Migrant entrepreneurs are creating one in every seven new businesses in the UK – Better Futures

The key problem areas that they citied in the Better Futures research were:

  1. Limited rights to work. This depends on an individual’s ‘status’ within the country. For example, asylum seekers are not permitted to work until they are given refugee status – this application process can take up to 6 months or more.
  2. Language barriers and associated low confidence
  3. Access to seed-funding, lack of savings and start-up money
  4. Lack of understanding around how to set up a business, limited knowledge of compliance requirements, and uncertainty about where to access advice and how to find trusted practical service providers.
  5. No personal or professional support network such as connections to other UK based business owners (which native entrepreneurs can exploit to get them started).
  6. Racism and xenophobia, this can be institutional or from the wider community.
  7. Mental and physical health issues. Refugees are significantly more likely to suffer from illnesses such as PTSD than the wider population.
  8. Cultural attitudes within their community may prevent women refugees from having the confidence, support, or opportunity to start their own business’s.
  9. No ‘track record’. Although many individuals coming to the UK have certificates of education and/or run successful companies in their country of origin this is not always recognised.

68% of young people who have a family member or friend who is a business owner say this has made them more likely to consider entrepreneurship as a career – Future Founders

Refugee Entrepreneurs overcome barriers to self-employment article by start.biz

The key to our economic recovery

Understanding and appreciating that entrepreneurial newcomers are an incredible asset to the UK has become a mission for many charities and supporters of enterprise. Lobbying for revised government policies, tackling racist preconceptions, and assisting aspiring business owners are all essential elements to bolstering the UK’s economic disasters resulting from Brexit and Covid. Here are just a few examples.

TERN is a London based non-profit committed to “enabling refugees to thrive through the power of their own ideas”. Alongside National Enterprise Network, they are one of the UK Partners on the Better Futures project, offering mentoring, training, expert advice, networking, and business opportunities to their community. As part of their support efforts, they have set-up Anqa Collective: a marketplace for refugee business owners to showcase their offerings. The marketplace is led by refugee founders, and sells “exciting products and experiences from a new generation of refugee-led businesses”.

Every purchase helps these brilliant founders to grow their businesses. Together, we can buy into change – Anqa Collective

Get to know the community

According to Charlie Fraser, TERN’s Co-founder, “being a refugee makes you more determined and resilient and those are two key traits for entrepreneurs.” TERN understand their support needs to be tailored to the community they serve, so have adapted their offering to include part-time and flexible 3-6 month courses to extend their reach.

ACH are a South West and West Midlands based charity that are committed to kick-starting aspiring refugee and migrant ventures or accelerate business owners journey’s. They have partnered with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the University of Bristol on Migrant Business Support Project.

Refugee Entrepreneurs overcome barriers to self-employment

Felicity Blades from Start.Biz (members of NEN) with Sonia Nazir (Lead Business Consultant at ACH) and Julia Dixon-Barrow (Entrepreneurship & Engagement Manager at ACH)

Our project is designed to help entrepreneurs from a migrant background navigate the world of business and get their ideas up and running or advance a pre-existing business – ACH

Impact through collaboration

ACH also offer career advice, training courses, business support and resettlement schemes to help individuals arriving in the UK integrate to their new surroundings. ACH are currently working on a partnership with professional business service provider Start.Biz to connect their clients with practical products enabling them to set up their venture conveniently and comprehensively. This collaboration has enabled both organisations to solve actual, real-time issues migrant communities are having when it comes to starting and running their businesses.

We believe anyone can start, run, and grow a successful business, all they need is the right information, guidance and support. When we came across ACH and the work they’re doing we saw the synergy between this and them straight away. We’re incredibly proud to be partnering with ACH and helping their clients hit the ground running when it comes to setting up their ventures.

Bevan Edwards, Director at Start.Biz.

Hopes for the future

Start.Biz are part of the National Enterprise Network, who lead partner on the Better Futures Project which is funded by Erasmus+. NEN is unique network of enterprise supporters across England, many of whom rely on Government funding to deliver support to entrepreneurs in their communities.

Although much is being done by public, private and charitable entities to promote the entrepreneurial ventures of migrants, a study by ACH showed that 75% of refugees and migrants have no opportunities beyond low-paid, entry-level employment, meaning that much further reaching action has to be taken to give fair opportunities to these communities.

Through the collaboration of organisations like TERN, the NEN, Better Futures, ACH and Start.Biz we hope that these partners can bring a diverse and comprehensive set of skills to lead the way to a brighter future for new settlers in the UK.

To find out more about NEN’s Erasmus+ projects and access the free resources available, please visit: International Impact – National Enterprise Network



Anqa Collective

Better Futures

Future Founders

Start.Biz (National Business Register)