Delighted black female barista serving coffee in cup in cafe
(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio/ Pexels)

Refugees, often arriving in a new country with meager resources and facing discrimination, demonstrate remarkable resilience by forging their own paths as entrepreneurs. A 2012 report highlighted that immigrants are more likely to become entrepreneurs and start businesses than native-born citizens, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Report.

This study, spanning 69 countries including the UK, underscored the significant contributions of immigrants to the global economy. Employing staff members from overseas has proven to make companies more innovative and productive. Notably, U.S. businesses like Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna, founded or co-founded by immigrants, have played pivotal roles in advancing mRNA-based vaccine research, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Refugee-owned businesses not only thrive in their own right but also regularly offer employment and training to other migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, significantly contributing to their communities and economies. Here are eight UK refugee-owned businesses that have positively impacted their communities and that are worth supporting:

1. Syria Sunflower Kitchen

Majeda Khoury, a Syrian activist, chef, and refugee, launched Syria Sunflower Kitchen in London in 2019. Khoury uses her catering company to share Syrian culture and tell the untold stories of Syria. She also offers cooking classes inspired by Migrateful, a UK charity hosting cookery classes led by migrants and asylum seekers.

Khoury, who fled to the UK after being imprisoned for protesting human rights abuses, has created a space for cultural exchange and understanding through her business. By offering cooking classes, she empowers other refugees to share their stories and culinary traditions, fostering community and resilience.

2. Cream Dream

Yelyzaveta Tataryna, a 23-year-old refugee from Ukraine, opened Cream Dream, a vegan cafe in Covent Garden, London. Tataryna obtained refugee status in England after fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Her business not only provides delicious vegan treats but also creates job opportunities for fellow Ukrainian refugees, helping them rebuild their lives in a new country.

Cream Dream offers a variety of vegan desserts and beverages, making it a popular spot for health-conscious customers and those with dietary restrictions. By employing other Ukrainian nationals, Tataryna helps her community integrate into British society and gain financial independence

3. Chatterbox

Afghan refugee Mursal Hedayat MBE and co-founder Guillemette Dejean launched Chatterbox in 2016. Chatterbox is an AI-powered language-learning tool that employs marginalized professionals, including refugees, as language coaches. The platform leverages the untapped potential of these professionals by providing them with meaningful employment opportunities.

Chatterbox supports marginalized communities by offering them a chance to share their language skills and cultural knowledge with a global audience. This innovative approach not only helps refugees find employment but also enriches the language-learning experience for users around the world.

4. Maria Callisto Lingerie

Maria Igwebuike, who moved from Nigeria to the UK at age eleven, founded Maria Callisto Lingerie in 2019. The lingerie label prioritizes body positivity, ethically sourced materials, and sustainability. Igwebuike's brand promotes inclusivity and sustainability in the fashion industry.

By focusing on body positivity and ethical practices, Maria Callisto Lingerie offers a refreshing alternative to conventional lingerie brands. The company empowers women to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin while also supporting sustainable fashion initiatives.

5. Bees & Refugees

Ali Alzein, a Syrian refugee, founded Bees & Refugees in London in 2019. Inspired by his grandfather's beekeeping in Syria, Alzein started this beekeeping community to help heal his mental health after experiencing the traumas of war. Bees & Refugees supports other refugees and asylum seekers with employment and therapeutic activities.

The initiative not only provides job opportunities but also offers a therapeutic outlet for refugees, promoting mental well-being and environmental sustainability. By engaging in beekeeping, participants can connect with nature, gain valuable skills, and integrate into their new communities.

6. Toosha Jewellery

Huda Abusaleem, a Sudanese refugee, founded Toosha Jewellery, a handmade jewellery business, in 2019. Abusaleem started making jewelry as a child and turned her passion into a successful enterprise. Toosha Jewellery showcases her craftsmanship and provides a source of income for her family.

The business offers unique, handcrafted pieces that reflect Abusaleem's cultural heritage and artistic vision. By sharing her creations with the world, she not only supports her family but also raises awareness of Sudanese culture and the refugee experience.

7. Active Horizons

Yeukai Taruvinga, an award-winning entrepreneur from Zimbabwe, founded Active Horizons in 2006 to support young people with migrant backgrounds in the UK. The organization provides educational and social support to help young migrants integrate and succeed. Taruvinga also launched Shumba Boutique, a fashion brand known for its African prints and vibrant garments.

Active Horizons empowers young Britons from migrant backgrounds to embrace their heritage and pursue their dreams. Shumba Boutique celebrates African culture through fashion, offering unique and colorful designs that promote cultural pride and identity.

8. HAVEN Coffee

Usman Khalid, a refugee, founded HAVEN Coffee in London. The coffee brand aims to raise awareness of refugee communities across the capital. HAVEN Coffee provides barista training to other refugees and hosts events that promote refugee artists and performers.

The coffee shop serves as a platform for refugee empowerment, fostering a sense of community and support. By offering training and opportunities for refugees to showcase their talents, HAVEN Coffee helps them integrate and thrive in their new environment.