Despite arriving in a new country with little or nothing, and facing various challenges in rebuilding their lives, many refugees overcome these struggles and start their own businesses. Thanks to their unique skills and passion, they influence and enrich the communities and lives around them, whether it’s through art, food, clothes and so much more.

Below, discover a few refugee-run businesses and social enterprises that highlight the many contributions of refugees to culture in Europe, the US and beyond.

Creating feelings of home, comfort and safety

Alisa is a 47-year-old Ukrainian woman who left Kharkiv shortly after the war escalated to protect her family. She has been living in Athens with her husband and her three children for one year now, and she runs a ‘home staging business’ where she rearranges and redecorates houses to be sold or rented at higher prices.

As a home stager, Alisa wants to ensure the atmosphere she creates gives her clients the feelings of home, comfort, and safety - feelings that she was no longer experiencing in her home country.

Location: Athens, Greece

Not just coffee...

Haven Coffee is not just a coffee shop. It's a social enterprise built around supporting refugees. Founded by refugee Usman Khalid, the coffee brand and London venue reinvests profits into the refugee community, training refugee baristas and hosting events promoting refugee artists and performers. You can support Haven Coffee by visiting the London shop, attending events (including a stand-up comedy night with refugee performers) and/or getting a fairtrade specially sourced coffee subscription.

Location: London, UK | Website

Amplifying voices

Nataliia is a 40-year-old actress, drama teacher and public speaking instructor from Kharkiv, Ukraine. She fled her home country a year ago due to the escalation of the hostilities and relocated to Athens, Greece.

Continuing to work as an actress in Greece, she seeks to raise awareness about Ukraine to the Greek audience. Though Nataliia did not speak Greek once she arrived in Athens, she managed to master her Greek language skills so she could fully understand and immerse herself in the acting scripts.

Nataliia provides public speaking courses to adults who want to master their public speaking skills, and gradually she seeks to build her public speaking teaching business.  

Location: Athens, Greece | Instagram

Zubaidah Boutique

Zubaidah arrived in the United States from Iraq as a refugee in 2014.

She owns Zubaidah Boutique, where she creates handmade jewellery. Hand-made using the highest quality materials, her products blending the originality of the past with the modernity of the present.

“Since childhood, I have had a passion for disassembling and assembling things to see what they would look like in a new way or to learn how they are made,” Zubaidah says.

“I always have new ideas to create beautiful things that make people happy.”   

Location: Salt Lake City, USA | Website

AI-powered language learning  

Founded in 2016 by Afghan refugee Mursal Hedayat MBE and co-founder Guillemette Dejean, Chatterbox is a language-learning tool with a social impact. With Chatterbox, companies can develop language learning internally while also supporting refugees who work as professional language coaches on the platform.

Location: International | Website

Activist cookery classes and catering

A chef and activist from Syria, Majeda Khoury came to the UK after being imprisoned for her human rights work. She set up Syrian Sunflower to use food as a way of bringing people together and raising awareness about Syria. Majeda offers cooking classes and catering.

Location: UK | Instagram

Blossom Pads

Sultana Amani is a 21-year-old Afghan entrepreneur, activist, and student. She arrived in the United States after fleeing her home in Kabul when the Taliban took control of the country.

Sultana runs a social enterprise that employs Afghan women in their homes to make reusable menstrual products - called Blossom Pads - for other Afghan women.

Location: Silver Springs, USA

Vegan pastries in Covent Garden (via Kyiv)

Dream come true: Vegan pastry cafe owner Yelyzaveta Tataryna celebrates the opening in Covent Garden

23-year-old Yelyzaveta Tataryna opened a vegan cafe in London after fleeing the war in Ukraine in 2022. Originally planning to open in Kyiv, the war forced Yelyzaveta to change plans and move to Covent Garden where she now employs other displaced Ukrainians.

Location: London, UK | Instagram

Heart Of Ukraine

Though Olha spoke little English upon arriving in Salt Lake City after fleeing the war in Ukraine, she remained resilient and creative. She is bridging the gap between language and culture through the start of her business, Heart Of Ukraine, where she makes traditional Oreshki cookies. 

Olha has been able to take her business to the next level through the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City’s small business programme. She was also recently recognised in the International Rescue Committee & Craft Lake City public art exhibit: Together We Welcome.

“Every time I get an order, there is joy in my heart,” says Olha. “This business makes me feel like I have a purpose here. It has given me light in the darkness.” 

Location: Salt Lake City, USA | Instagram

Organic farming in Bristol

Ali Al Hlayel is a farmer originally from Syria, where he grew barley and vegetables. Now living in Bristol, Ali (AKA Rocketman) grows organic fresh vegetables on his farm, supplying local restaurants and businesses. 

Location: Bristol, UK | Facebook

Enfance Radieuse Child Care


Fatima arrived in the United States with her two children from Togo, soon after her husband sought asylum in 2016. Her family resettled as refugees, working hard to rebuild their lives in the Beehive State.

Fatima announced her new child care business, Enfance Radieuse - meaning “Light of Children” - earlier this year. The day care service provides a bilingual (French and English) environment, so kids can explore their linguistic abilities and learn a new language during their time at the center.

Location: Salt Lake City, USA | Website

Sustainable lingerie 

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A post shared by Maria Callisto Lingerie (@maria_callisto)

Maria Igwebuike launched an ethically sourced, sustainable and body positive lingerie label in 2019. The lingerie is made from recycled fabric scraps from local seamstresses and old wedding dresses. Proceeds go to Suffolk Refugee Support, an organisation that used to support Maria.

Location: UK | Website

New Roots Tucson Farmers

Egide and Anezi are farmers and refugees from Burundi. Egide and his family arrived in 2016, and Anezi and her family arrived in 2015. They now grow hot peppers and a variety of other produce at the IRC’s New Roots programme in Tucson, USA, and sell them at local farmer's markets. They have also partnered with a local restaurant, LaCo, to provide their locally grown chillies for LaCo’s house-made hot sauces.

Egide and Anezi are ecstatic that the Tucson community can finally taste what they devoted so much time to carefully grow and create. Egide said, “I am so pleased because it makes me feel like what I am doing, the work I am doing, is being enjoyed by other people.”

Location: Tucson, USA

 Community beekeeping

Bees & Refugees community beekeeping experience business London

Inspired by his grandfather, a farmer who kept bees in Syria, Ali Alzein began keeping bees in London and found it helped with his own mental health after experiencing the trauma of war. In late 2019, Ali founded Bees & Refugees to provide therapeutic relief to fellow refugees. Bees & Refugees supports individuals and communities in their healing journey while promoting environmental sustainability.

Location: London, UK | Website

Abyssinia Restaurant and Cafe

Azeb is a refugee from Ethiopia, came to Phoenix, USA, 12 years ago with a dream of one day opening her very own restaurant. Through the Economic Empowerment programme at the IRC, she was given a loan to open her restaurant, Abyssinia Restaurant and Cafe, in 2015.

At her restaurant, she serves a wide variety of Ethiopian dishes, including Missir, Shiro, and Doro. Azeb also performs a traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony - an important and spiritual cultural ritual. 

Historically in Ethiopia, women perform this spiritual ceremony three times a day - morning, afternoon, and night, as a way to welcome and connect with neighbours, friends, and family. 

In the eight years of owning her restaurant, she has seen some highs and lows and her business is slowly picking back up after the impact of COVID-19. 

Location: Phoenix, USA | Website

African-print fashion

Yeukai Taruvinga, founder of Shumba Boutique
Photo: Photo: Shumba Boutique

Yeukai fled Zimbabwe at 18 years old after speaking out against the government. Now she runs a fashion business and has founded Active Horizons, an award-winning organisation that supports young people.  

Location: UK | Website

Too Sabrozo Delicatessen

Isela is an enterprising woman, professional chef, wife, mother, and a political asylee from Colombia. She fled Cartagena in 2015 due to persecution by the government for her activism defending the Black and Afro-descendant communities of Colombia.

Too Sabrozo Delicatessen, her thriving business and food truck, fulfils her dream and passion for cuisine. She sells at local farmers' markets, is a supplier to local specialty grocers, offers deliveries, and caters for events.

Location: San Diego, USA | Website

Handmade jewellery designs  

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Huda Abusaleem set up her jewellery design business, Toosha, in 2019. Originally from Sudan, Huda began making jewellery when she was a child and is now turning her lifelong passion into a business.  

Location: UK | Instagram

Dija’s Touch

Born in Sierra Leone, Kadijatu struggled with depression as an asylum seeker building a new life in the United States. She couldn’t find her story in the culture around her.

One night, she prayed. “Believe it or not,” Kadijatu recalls, “I dreamt of making shoes. And I woke up - I only had $100 to my name - and I went to Walmart.”

At home, she pulled a pair of sneakers apart to learn how to make them herself. That was the beginning of her journey with Dija’s Touch, a brand and platform for women’s empowerment.

Today, with support from an IRC microenterprise programme, Kadijatu uses African prints to create custom-designed shoes and products. Inspired by words her mother shared when she left Sierra Leone - “Wherever you find yourself, try to be part of the community” - she seeks to give back.

Kadijatu recently hosted an event to introduce her brand to her new community in Pennsylvania; a quarter of the sales were donated to the construction of a vocational school for women and girls in Sierra Leone.

Location: Pennsylvania, USA | Website

Mother of All Catering

Chef Kaltum Mohamed

Chef Kaltum Mohamed learned to love cooking as a child by helping her mother in the kitchen and quickly realised her passion for food.

Kaltum wants to share her East African culinary traditions with all of Utah. Her cuisine is reminiscent of Sudan with special spices and a beautiful presentation. Some of her specialties include gima, a crispy potato dish of peas, beef, and Sudanese spices; sambusa, a triangular pastry filled with vegetables and spices; falafel; and basbusa, a sweet, syrupy semolina cake.

Location: Salt Lake City, USA | Website

How can I support refugees?

We stand for a world that recognises, welcomes and supports all refugees, on World Refugee Day (20 June) and every day. Learn how you can help welcome refugees on World Refugee Day and beyond.