On Friday, June 23, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Associate Administrator, Mark Madrid, visited the IRC in Atlanta to celebrate the success of the Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP)—a two-year collaboration between the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Atlanta, Refugee Women’s Network (RWN), the Latin American Association (LAA), and the Somali American Community Center (SACC)—in honor of World Refugee Day. The CNPP brought $800,000 of federal funding to the state in late 2021 to assist diverse small business owners—with a focus on refugees and immigrants—in recovering from the impact of the pandemic. The award was part of a $100 million federal American Rescue Plan initiative to support small business economic recovery across six states (Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Utah, and California).
The Georgia CNPP partnership is a model for success nationwide, enrolling 318 diverse small businesses between December 2021 and May 2023 and providing culturally- and linguistically-appropriate support to apply for relief capital totaling more than $4,000,000 so far. In Georgia, refugees and immigrants play an outsized role in the state's small business community: They make up one-tenth of the state’s population but own nearly one-third of all Main Street businesses, employing thousands of Georgians and generating billions in revenue each year.
Over delicious refreshments provided by local refugee and immigrant business owners and alongside leaders from the CNPP nonprofit partners, Mr. Madrid discussed the powerful impact of new American entrepreneurs in communities throughout Georgia and the U.S. and shared some of his own family’s story with attendees. “The stories of refugees are often ones of great tragedy, turmoil, and loss,” he shared. “It’s our mission at the SBA to ensure that the American dream of business ownership can be a reality for everyone, regardless of where you come from.”
IRC helped me to build my credit and register my business and they also featured me on the IRC in Atlanta Instagram page and from there I got a lot of customers from different places.
—Nimota Dairo, owner of Royal Nigerian Foods
Local business owners who have benefited from the CNPP program shared their personal business journeys and were undoubtedly the stars of the event! Guests heard from Adja Mada Diakite, owner of Mada JY who was served by RWN; Hanan Abdulle, owner of United Cultures Connect, LLC who was served by SACC; Itzel Mendoza, owner of Things and Stuff, Inc. who was served by the LAA; and Nimota Salami Dairo, owner of Royal Nigerian—a food company that makes products including agonyin, ofada and obe ata pepper sauces, as well as Zobo drink, a refreshing bright red Hibiscus beverage—who was served by the team at the IRC in Atlanta.
“I am here today to thank everyone and tell everyone about the support I received from IRC,” Nimota shared. “I was connected to the IRC Business Counselor, Mr. Sultan (…) IRC has wonderful Business Coaches (…) IRC helped me to build my credit and register my business and they also featured me on the IRC in Atlanta Instagram page and from there I got a lot of customers from different places. My products are very delicious and mouthwatering and will satisfy your cravings! My products originate from West Africa, but they are used by everyone from diverse communities.”
We are so grateful to SBA Associate Administrator, Mark Madrid, for visiting Atlanta, connecting with our local business owners, and sharing his own personal experience with us, and our spoke partners, the Latin American Association, Refugee Women’s Network, and the Somali American Community Center for all their hard work and dedication, and last but not least to the courageous entrepreneurs who shared their stories as part of this incredible event.
Are you a business owner or aspiring entrepreneur in Georgia? To learn more about the IRC in Atlanta's Microenterprise Development (MED) program, or to access our MED services, please contact [email protected].
Other 2023 World Refugee Day happenings included:
World Refugee Day also brought out some incredible supporters of the IRC in Atlanta who lent their time and efforts to essential volunteer work! A generous group of volunteers from Google worked with our adult ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) students to deliver in-person English instruction with activities focused on community-building and practical language skills. Additionally, volunteers from World Affairs Council of Atlanta’s Young Leaders program collaborated with the IRC in Atlanta’s New Roots Summer Youth Food Justice Interns to build ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible gardens at Indian Creek Middle School! These beautiful gardens are designed with raised garden beds that allow wheelchair- and walker-using gardeners to get closer to the flowers, vegetables and herbs without having to kneel or bend over. Laura Brower, Volunteer Committee Chairperson at World Affairs Council of Atlanta, shared, "It was a pleasure to organize this event and garden with a lovely group of volunteers. We hope the students of Indian Creek Middle School are enjoying the new additions."
Our New Roots interns didn’t stop there: on June 16, the students attended Refugee Recipe Celebration Day at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens! The students set up a table next to our partners from Friends of Refugees who teamed up with Royal Nigerian, a client of IRC’s Microenterprise Development program, among other talented chefs to show off their international dishes. Students shared information about New Roots, Clarkston High School’s Garden Club and the International Rescue Committee with the park’s visitors. We are so honored to work with so many talented students, partners and volunteers—many thanks to all who came out to support our refugee community!
Finally, along with our Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) partners, we celebrated World Refugee Day in Clarkston on Saturday, June 24. The event featured incredible performers and amazing vendors and guest speakers including Congressman Hank Johnson and State Senator Kim Jackson. Be sure to check out more photo stories and write-ups from the event below:
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Senior Development Manager, Heloise Ahoure, at [email protected] or 678-636-8941.