Almost 50 refugees helped into business by Aston expert

20 June 2019

A project, run by a Syrian academic working at Aston University in Birmingham, has helped almost 50 refugees from his native country to become entrepreneurs.

Dr Muhammad Al Mahameed, a member of the Accounting Group in Aston Business School, began leading the Rwad (which stands for ‘pioneers’ in Arabic) project, when he joined the university in 2014, in a bid to help disadvantaged entrepreneurs acquire the financial and analytical skills they need to set up a business.

Through the project, which teaches aspiring entrepreneurs how to write a business plan and then supports them into acting upon it, over 15 businesses have been successfully set up by Syrian refugees both in the UK and world-wide, including Manchester, Edinburgh, Turkey, Germany and Canada.

Dr Muhammad Al Mahameed, RWAD project lead and member of the Accounting Group in Aston Business School, said: “Social and economic integration are two of the main challenges facing refugees in their new societies.

“However, the economic component receives less attention from governments and NGOs despite its important role in helping the refugees with the overall integration process.

“I started Rwad to help with this particular aspect and provide this little support to the refugees to start their own businesses. 

“Rwad is inspired by my teaching experience at Aston, providing an interactive learning environment to the learners and allowing them to use their passion and courage to excel in their chosen business.”

One of the businesses to have been set up through the RWAD project is Tradot Ltd, an online sporting goods retailer founded in April 2018 by Osama Al Assaf.

Osama arrived in the UK in 2016 after fleeing war-torn Syria with his wife and two young children.

The escalating conflict in his native country, which cost Osama his home and his original business, meant that he was forced to embark on a perilous journey through Lebanon, Turkey and France in order to reach Britain in the search for a better future.

Desperate to find a steady source of income, Osama contacted Muhammad about the RWAD project, in a bid to learn how to write a business plan and start a company in the UK.

Osama Al Assaf, co-owner of Tradot Ltd, said: “I first met Dr Muhammad in Syria and knew he had since started working at Aston University.

“A lack of business education, knowledge of the UK’s economy and the language barrier meant I was finding it extremely difficult to find guidance for starting my own business.

“I contacted Muhammad for advice on how to write a business plan, and when I discovered he was running the RWAD project I felt I had found my saviour.

“Dr Mahameed not only taught me how to develop my business idea into a plan, but the way that the UK’s economy works, and it was this knowledge that gave me the confidence to start my own company.

“I used the knowledge to set up Tradot Ltd, an online retail company selling sporting goods, which has attracted over 9,000 customers in the UK within its first year.

“The company is selling 53 high quality products and now has the capacity to process international orders for more than 34 countries worldwide.”

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