The business of settling in to a new community
For Eritrean refugee Nadia Hassan Australia has truly proved to be the land of opportunity.
The mother of three has built a thriving import and retail business in the heart of multicultural Footscray.
She says that hard work, persistence and an eye for market gaps have been the secrets to her success.
“I came to Australia from Eritrea as a refugee in 1988. I came because there was a war there. It was a very bad situation and I could not stay in my country,” Nadia said.
She says she and her family, and thousands of others, were forced to leave behind their homes and their way of life.
“I spent some time in a refugee camp and when I came to Australia there was a language barrier for me. So I decided I needed to learn English and I did some courses,” Nadia said.
“After a few months I started work. I worked in factories and hotels and I always wanted to save money to start my own business.
“At the beginning I started importing some lines of foods that I knew I could sell I my community here.
“We started small at first and built the business up slowly. It took a long time before we became truly successful but we never gave up,” she said.
Nadia started importing food lines from Africa and the Middle East for her community.
Her business has grown and now she imports food products from across the globe as well as health and beauty lines.
Her Paisley street shop stocks special flours and dried fruits and spices.
“Because we built the business slowly we gained a lot of knowledge over 20 years,” she said.
Now she runs a shop and import business in Paisley Street in the centre of Footscray.
She has three children – two at university and one completing high school.
“I came as a refugee and initially life was very hard but I always knew what I wanted to do,” Nadia said.
“I always had the thought of having my own business and so I saved up and first I opened a milk bar.
“Then I worked hard and built up the business and now I am financially secure and I have brought up my children and I feel good about what I have achieved.
“Running the business has made me feel part of the community. I feel very settled here now – this is my home.
“Now I feel very about good about what I have done in my life. I feel lucky to be here in Australia and to have the opportunity to do something that I wanted to do.
“I wish the best of luck to everyone who comes to this country.
“Whatever I have done, it is possible for anyone to do; you just need a bit of commitment and hard work – that’s all,” Nadia said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist