Refugee entrepreneurs just keep going because they are used to difficult situations

Because they are used to fight against bad circumstances, entrepreneurs with a refugee background have an ability and the mindset to overcome the most adverse circumstances. Olaf, head of the Social Impact Lab in Munich and THSN partner for Refugee Start-Ups in Germany is optimistic. He thinks that it might take more time for refugee entrepreneurs to understand if their business works, but they will make it also through this challenge.

As a company we pretty much converted all the processes we needed and we have to a digital solution. So we were very quick about this and we have gained interesting insights and new knowledge that we will continue to pursue even after the crisis, which is good for future.

My name is Olaf Weberring and I'm the head of the Social Impact Lab in Munich and the program manager for The Human Safety Net “For Refugees Startups” in Germany.
Social impact has been around in the social sector for 25 years now and we doing a lot of very different type of programs, for all kind of people as long as they are in some way disadvantaged.

How are you facing the covid-19 outbreak?
We were surprised at how many of our participants were able to communicate and work with us online. We thought that would be a problem. But apparently it's not so much, they switched over pretty quickly. We continue to serve and almost as nothing had happened, at least for those who were are already there when this crisis started.

What do you notice among the people you’re helping? How are they dealing with this situation?
I think what's important to say is that entrepreneurs with a migrant or refugee start-up usually had a hard start anyway coming to Europe. So most of them have the ability and the way to fight their way through the most adverse circumstances and uphold the faith that they can really make it. So this is helping them in this situation now because they just don't drop it, they just keep going because they somehow have a feeling it will work, they are used to difficult situations. So this is not tipping them over now. Usually they're too proud to come on and say “okay, I got a problem and I need help” so you really have to ask them and that takes some time.

How do you feel the situation will evolve?
I'm a natural optimist, so I think we should be more optimistic about the near future. If you look at history, things gains up quickly again, and so I think we'll be back to normal within half a year from end of the crisis, that's just my feeling. And I think it's really hard to say what effect is going to have on the business of our refugee startups, because it's hard to say which industry will react how to this so this is really a black box here, doesn't make our job easier.

What is the most important need for you as an NGO today and for the people you help?
Well as a company, I think we already have what we need that is the understanding and support from the part of THSN, which was there from the beginning. This was really helpful because they didn’t put us in a difficult situation where we had to manage many things, much of it was already helped by THSN itself. And what our beneficiaries will definitely need is a longer breath, because it will surely take more time to set up a business. It will take them more time to understand if it works, so this will be quite difficult for them, but I think they will make it through this.