Jakarta, Indonesia – Fahim (26) proudly showed a certificate with his name on it, to friends gathering at Atma Jaya Catholic University. It was a special morning as 47 refugees and Indonesians graduated from the Ready for Business (R4B) program after completing six months of entrepreneurship training.
Co-led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the R4B prepares local and refugee youth for the world of entrepreneurship – giving them an opportunity to incubate their ventures, develop key business skills and build their network.
Participants of the R4B are expected to develop their respective business ventures and at the end of the program, those who came up with proposals with most promising growth potential would receive seed grant to run their small business project.
In June 2019, Fahim signed up for the R4B program, and soon after he met Alda Chrisvantina (21), an accounting student at Atma Jaya Catholic University and Ivana Angel Walangitan (25), a Sales Manager from a private company “Beervana”. Fahim himself is an Afghan refugee artist who arrived in Indonesia in 2013.
The trio shared mutual interest in sustainable design and decided to combine their innovations and individual talents. An idea sparked with a thought that each time Ivana hailed a motorbike taxi on her way to work, she dreaded putting on the helmet provided by the driver.
“It can be uncomfortable and is not very clean,” Ivana says. Tired of lugging her own helmet everywhere and determined not to use a disposable plastic head wrap she thought of sewing her own wrap made with pieces of old clothing.
When Ivana met Alda and Fahim at the R4B program, the three realized that they could turn Ivana’s idea to market by creating a practical, fashionable and sustainable product.
After five months of working together on practical entrepreneurship activities and fine-tuning their business plan, the trio launched AFA Creative Studios, a design agency focused on producing creative accessories using sustainable approaches. The agency offers a range of custom and printed tote bags and helmet head covers sourced from re-purposed clothing like denim.
“The head covers are custom-tailored so they’re designed to fit really well. We’re experimenting with new ways and fabrics, and to get them waterproof,” says Ivana.
For Hashim, the R4B program helped him turn his passion for art into an actual business. “When I first joined, I thought I’d start something food-related or culinary. I only did drawings as a hobby, and I knew how to cut and sew bags from working at my father’s factory. Here, the training and my friends helped me realize that I could turn what I already knew and enjoyed doing something bigger.”
“Everywhere in the world, including in Indonesia, refugees need the public’s support. However, realizing that direct cash assistance cannot be sustainable, we need to find ways that can help refugees improve their self-reliance. The Ready for Business program uses a win – win scheme that will benefit the hosting community’s businesses while also empowering the refugees so they are able to take care of themselves and prepared for their future,” said Ann Maymann, Representative of UNHCR Indonesia.
This year, UNHCR will continue partnership with ILO, Atma Jaya and Dompet Dhuafa for the third cohort of Ready for Business that is planned for the second semester of 2020.
The ILO-UNHCR R4B program is implemented with partners Atma Jaya Catholic University and non-profit organization, Dompet Dhuafa, Participants learn from each other rather than from external experts or trainers, working intensively in group-based exercises, aided by a facilitator. They also learn financial planning, marketing and business management skills and benefit from advice and tips from local entrepreneurs.
The three entrepreneurs who founded AFA Creative Studios are now testing out ways to grow their business through e-commerce and new distribution channels.
“We know it won’t be easy and will face challenges,’ said Hashim, ‘but I am more confident now because of this training and we’ll be able to face them together.”