Young Migrant, Refugee, Turkish Entrepreneurs Bring Business Ideas to Life through UN Migration Agen

Duygu, Azra and Yashar have been developing their business plan to assist talented, but struggling, artisans bring their handicrafts to the commercial market trough Joon, their start-up company

Last weekend (26-27/08), 11 teams of young migrant, refugee and Turkish entrepreneurs presented their innovative business ideas to IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in the hope of securing a grant. Under its entrepreneurship training and grants project, IOM is working to build business skills among young people, helping make their business ideas a reality.

“The entrepreneurship training and grants project give young people from refugee and host communities the opportunity to develop their business ideas, which might have otherwise fallen through the cracks,” said Jamil Awan, IOM Turkey Livelihood Programme Officer. “The project was originally developed to help the Syrian community in Turkey, but was later expanded to include migrant and host community youth. Now, the programme builds social cohesion.”

From 14–26 August, 11 teams comprising 23 participants worked with mentors and trainers as part of the InnoCampus Entrepreneurship Accelerator Training implemented by Innomate, a collaborative non-profit project partner of IOM. The two-week intensive course taught participants business management, finance and marketing strategies, as well as product design, prototyping and branding.

Some of the businesses are social enterprises that aim to provide alternative solutions to problems, such as the “Mental Segment” project. Two young entrepreneurs have developed educational toys to help autistic children learn language and interact with their surroundings.

“Autistic children should learn how to use language before the age of 10,” explained Can, one of the co-founders. “What we offer are unique toys to assist professionals and parents customize education to their autistic child. We came to the training with hopes of getting more visibility to launch our product and we are extremely excited to have been able to reach out to a wider audience thanks to the exposure we have had.”

This is the second phase of IOM’s entrepreneurship project in Turkey. The first was held in Gaziantep from February to May 2017, where three teams with the most viable business plans were selected to receive grants. These included Joon (modernizing traditional handicrafts created by refugees), Corners (a Syrian interior design team) and Akram (a business designing customized oriental watches).

With the assistance of IOM’s entrepreneurship programme partnered with Innomate, Joon was part of a four-month training programme to help them develop their business plan. Duygu, Azra and Yashar from Joon have been developing their business plan to help talented refugee artisans bring their handicrafts to the commercial market. They have an innovative approach to handicrafts using laser design, 3D printing and other technologies to adapt traditional handicrafts to modern design.

“It might be common for NGOs and small business to work with traditional craftsmen. However, the training programme helped us find our niche and to stand out from our competitors. Our business plan will not easily be overtaken by mass production,” said Azra.

“We want to help the disadvantaged and to enable them to bring their passion to the market place. That is our passion,” said Duygu.

Following the end of the programme in Izmir, the entrepreneurship training and grant project will move to Sanliurfa towards the end of the year (October 2017–January 2018) followed by Hatay in early 2018 (February–May 2018).

Entrepreneurship teams that have an innovative business idea and are interested in taking part can contact for more information.

IOM’s livelihoods programmes are funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

For more information, please contact Abby Dwommoh at IOM Turkey, Email: