Incubators to help refugees start their own business

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

Thanks to the incubator of the Human Safety Net foundation, created a little over two years ago, 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.

The Human Safety Net was founded in 2017 by insurer Generali. It offers two aid programs for refugees, including one to support them in setting up a business. Since its start, this program has launched the support of around fifteen people in the incubators of Saint-Denis and Montreuil, in Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris and Strasbourg.

Methodology and mentorship

“When I applied for the Saint-Denis incubator, I had an idea but I didn’t know how to carry out market studies, nor deal with the administrative part, says Yehya. The incubator allowed me to realize my project. » To be admitted, you must register on the Internet with a project idea, then pass an oral examination before a jury made up of players from the business world.

“My mother ran a Syrian restaurant business in France and she didn’t know how to develop it, she lacked customers, says Jawad, a Syrian refugee who arrived in France in 2016. I finally decided to take over the business with the help of the incubator. »

The support is divided into three parts: work on the methodology (business model, financing and marketing); individual support by experts (accounting, etc.); and mentoring provided by Generali employees.

Difficulty finding a job

“The majority of refugees participating in the incubator come from Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan. They generally have the baccalaureate level, or even baccalaureate + 2 for 50% of them”according to Sina Josheni, manager in Saint-Denis and Montreuil for La Ruche. “There are 36% of women, it 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.

“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, explains Élise Ginioux. They are resilient people who have left everything behind. They have learned not to give up, to be self-sacrificing. What also requires the job of entrepreneur. »

Today, Yehya wishes to continue the accompaniment, but also to share her experience with others. As for Jawad, he would like “hire two or three people” and “spread throughout France”.


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