an incubator to help refugees start a business

“I had a restaurant, but with the Covid crisis, it remained closed for several months and I had to stop my activity definitively. I had difficulties paying the rent and with the regulations. I wanted to start another project in online digital marketing, but I was afraid that I would face the same problems again” explains Yehya, a Sudanese refugee who arrived in France in March 2014.

A national entrepreneurial support network

Thanks to the incubator of the Human Safety Net foundation, he was able to benefit from support and create his business. The foundation works in Saint-Denis with La Ruche, a national entrepreneurial support network. On the occasion of a ceremony to celebrate the two years of the incubator, he received his diploma on Thursday, December 1 at the town hall of Saint-Denis, with all of the first three promotions.

Created in 2017 by the insurer Generali, The Human Safety Net offers two aid programs for refugees, including one that helps them to set up a business. Currently there are three incubators located in Saint-Denis, Paris, and Montreuil. A fourth, located in Strasbourg, will open at the start of 2023. They allow a class of 15 refugees to benefit from collective and individual support with experts, Generali partners and associations for nine months.

“I already had a project idea”

“When I applied for the Saint-Denis incubator, I already had an idea for a project but I didn’t know how to carry out market studies, nor how to deal with the administrative part, says Yehya. I found on the Internet only documentation in English but nothing concerning the French system. It was hard.The incubator allowed me to realize my project. »

To be admitted to the incubator, you have to submit your application on the Internet with a project idea, then pass an oral examination before a jury made up of players from the business world such as the SNCF Foundation, the Medef or Generali.

Develop self-confidence

An ordeal feared by Jawad, a Syrian refugee who arrived in France in 2016: I didn’t feel comfortable enough. Fortunately, La Ruche offered me a workshop to develop my self-confidence before the oral.» Once integrated, the participants can benefit regularly from French lessons but also from theater workshops.

Arrived with the desire to get into photography, Jawad finally changed his project along the way. “My mother ran a Syrian restaurant business in France and she didn’t know how to develop it, she lacked customers, he says. I finally decided to take over the business with the help of the incubator. »

Individual support

The accompaniment is divided into three parts. It makes it possible to work on the methodology, in particular the business plan, but also the question of financing and marketing. Individual support allows them to meet experts in certain fields, such as accounting. They can also benefit from the advice of Generali employees via a mentoring system.

“The majority of refugees participating in the incubator are from Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan” according to Sina Josheni, head of the program for refugee entrepreneurs in Saint-Denis and Montreuil for La Ruche, the others come from all over the world.

“There are 36% of women in our promotions, this is above the average of other incubators says Élise Ginioux, President of The Human Safety Net France and Director of Communication, CSR and Public Affairs at Generali France.

50% Bac +2

Yehya has a background in catering and Jawad was in a gap year, enrolled at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in management license when he joined the incubator. “The participants have generally been educated up to baccalaureate level, and 50% have a Bac +2”says Sina Josheni.

“Half of them were already entrepreneurs in their country of origin, the other half are discovering themselves. Creating a business is a response to the difficulties they have in finding a job, which is more fulfilling. Moreover, their diplomas are sometimes not recognized in France, explains Élise Ginioux. A refugee generally takes ten years to regain the same social status as in his country of origin.. They are resilient people who have left everything behind. They learned not to give up, self-sacrifice…all things that an entrepreneur must demonstrate. »

“The atmosphere was friendly”

“The atmosphere was benevolent in the incubator, I did not feel like a stranger”, says Jawad. An impression also shared by Yehya: “I was able to benefit from a network which I still benefit from and I remain in contact with my former comrades. »

Today Jawad would like “hire 2 to 3 people” and “spread throughout France”. Yehya wants to continue learning, with ongoing support, but also to share his experience with others.


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