Charlie Fraser is optimistic about the future of entrepreneurship for refugees.
When Charlie co-founded The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network in the U.K. in 2016, he and his partner had one question: How can we enable refugees to thrive through the power of their own ideas?
“This is a community that has a lot of business potential and business experience,” explained Charlie, co-founder and partnerships director at TERN. “But when they come to new communities they don’t get a level playing field to succeed and rebuild their own enterprise ambitions and through that their own livelihoods. We are focused on putting them at the center of their own futures.”
Barriers to Support
As they looked at why so many refugee entrepreneurs face disproportionate challenges, TERN found that they struggled to access the networks, the finance and the knowledge they needed to succeed in a new market. Today, TERN opens the door to all three, helping these entrepreneurs from the very early stages of a business idea to scaling those enterprises.
“Very few organizations specifically target this community of entrepreneurs,” Charlie said. “If you look at a whole range of issues, whether it be homelessness, unemployment, underemployment, refugees have some of the highest rates in the U.K.,” said Charlie. “That’s because the set of barriers they face is uniquely different from other newcomer populations.”
Those interventions come through TERN’s mentorship, workshops and co-working space which are all tailored specifically to be inclusive and representative of the barriers refugees face.
Changing the Narrative
In the past five years, TERN has worked with over 450 refugee entrepreneurs in the U.K. and aims to launch over 2,000 refugee-led businesses across the U.K., U.S. and Canada by 2025.
“The narrative around refugees is often focused on crisis, on poverty and deprivation,” Charlie said. “And we really wanted to reframe that and say ‘actually this is a community that brings with it a huge amount of opportunity.’"
According to TERN, creating 2,000 refugee-led businesses will not only create change for all of those founders but a catalytic effect where they’re hiring members of their community, bringing new value to their local communities and ultimately changing the public discourse.
“We want people to see them as value creators; as people that bring new ideas and new economies to communities,” added Charlie. “And I think that one of the greatest strengths is that people underestimate the diversity of these entrepreneurs. The community that we work with has over 50 nationalities in it and is working across 20 different sectors. If you embrace that diversity of ideas, then you create new value and that really is what we want to see in destination communities.”
Our purpose at eBay is to connect people and build communities to create economic opportunity for all. The eBay Foundation and eBay employees worldwide are proud that The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network is one of our 49 Global Give 2021 grant winners.
The eBay Foundation remains committed to supporting inclusive entrepreneurship for historically marginalized communities. Learn more about Global Give and the eBay Foundation at ebayinc.com/impact/ebay-foundation.