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Supporting refugee entrepreneurs to ‘thrive’

27 August 20200 comments

The adage ‘from small things big things grow’ may have never been more appropriate than when applied to a small micro finance outfit that is doing big things when it comes to supporting refugees to start their own businesses.

More than 170 refugee businesses have received loans from not-for-profit finance provider ‘Thrive’ over the past two years.

Established with the vital financial backing of Westpac, private donors and the generous support of leading companies such as Allianz, Deloitte, Gilbert & Tobin, KPMG, Korn Ferry, LOUD, Newgate and Equifax, Thrive, is registered as a charity with tax-deductible status for donations.

Thrive Chairman Huy Truong said the organisation had been created to support refugees and asylum seekers start their own businesses.

“As a result, they create self-employment, become financially independent and integrate faster and more successfully as active contributors to our society and economy,” Mr Truong said.

“The economic impact has been significant with the double benefit of reduced welfare payments and taxes being paid. In addition to the economic benefit has been the social benefit that arises with developing a network of customers, suppliers and other local businesses.

“We are able to provide these refugees support because of the generous aid from our strategic partners, volunteers and private donors. Their pro bono and financial support for refugees have enabled Thrive to create a system which lets us assist these entrepreneurs as they navigate through the complex and challenging path of starting, managing and sustaining a business,” he said.

“At Thrive, we don’t see our clients as asylum seekers and refugees in Australia – we see them as our next entrepreneurs. Because even though they may arrive with just the clothes on their backs, they rarely arrive empty-handed: they bring with them a wealth of experience, skills, innovative ideas and the motivation to build fulfilling lives and livelihoods in a safe country.

“Thrive helps them realise their dreams by providing small business loans and support that enable them to start and grow successful businesses and become financially independent, while actively contributing to Australia’s economy and community life,” Mr Truong said.

Among the entrepreneurs Thrive has supported is Rastegar Fathi who came to Australia from Iran in 2012.

For the first two years, he had no visa and began working as a volunteer for the Salvation Army as a chef, working there throughout 2015.

After moving to Melbourne he opened his first business with a partner. When it opened, Rastegar did not have enough capital to sustain his business.

A friend who had worked with Thrive introduced him to Thrive’s services and he was provided with pre-loan and post loan support.

After receiving the loan, he was able to make his business prosper.

Rastegar sold his old business and opened up another one with a plan to turn it into a franchise using his brand name ‘Chubby Chef’ Kebab.

With Thrive’s help, he has managed to not only grow his business but look towards the future with excitement and pride.

Rastegar has outfitted his entire shop from the bottom up, learning to make his own chairs and even upskilled himself in things like construction and carpentry.

He is a hands-on business owner with the passion for food and learning. His new shop is located in Melbourne on Chapel St, a restaurant district with a diverse and thriving nightlife.

Another loan recipient was Elham Behin Hamgini who arrived in Australia in 2016 as a refugee.

Elham wanted to find a place in her local community in Sydney and as a result began a course at TAFE for a Diploma in Photography and Photo Imagining.

During her studies, she heard about Thrive and thought it was a great opportunity for her to develop her career.

Once she had finished her course she applied for a Thrive Loan to establish her photography business.

She says the process was quick and easy. Thrive provided Elham with information and a volunteer to help her write her business plan, cash flow statements and other necessary documents to start her business.

With Thrive’s support, Elham began to understand the basics of running a business in Australia.

“I’m really grateful for all of Thrive’s advice and support and I look forward to working with Thrive to further her career in the future,” she said.