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Innovation through Diversity

by Ella Stuart, SINGA

It's all about connecting, learning and collaborating: The SINGA Factory brings local people and people from refugee and migrant backgrounds together, aiming at fostering entrepreneurship and innovation and at contributing to the creation of a truly inclusive society that benefits all.

Kebede Dache is a travel guide from Ethiopia, Nadine Guthapfel, his wife and business partner, is a sustainability and communications expert from Switzerland. They met on the road to Kaffa, the origin of coffee Arabica. Under their company KafiUndSchoggi Reisen, they organize group and individual tours to Ethiopia where travellers meet with local communities at eye level, to which 4 % of the tour’s income is donated, and experience the traditional coffee culture through coffee ceremonies in the heartland of Ethiopia.

Kebede Dache preparing to take 90 second pitch video in the SINGA Factory 2018.

Solomon Mengistu is from Eritrea. In his homeland, running is a tradition and a passion. There are currently many young refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia living in Switzerland. Many of them have a lot of potential and talent in long-distance running. However, they have few job prospects and opportunities to integrate and carry with them the trauma of leaving their homeland. This is why Solomon wants to found the running association, Run-to-Win, to train young refugees together with Swiss youth to prepare them for national and international competitions. Run-to-win will also support them in dealing with their psycho-social trauma and integrating discipline and structure into their lives. Solomon’s big dream is to have runners competing for Switzerland in the Olympic Games in 2024!

Having founded two companies in the Middle East with over 400 employees and struggled to find a suitable role on the job market since arriving in Switzerland, marketing expert Elie Khudari from Syria understands the challenges of both finding work and finding the right employees. Therefore, Elie’s business idea, Seeveez, is to develop a revolutionary, modern and human online portal to connect job seekers with talent seekers, using the latest AI technologies and state of the art algorithms.

Smriti Chhabra is the face and heart behind Delhicious and offers Indian catering services and cooking classes. She combines the best of India and Switzerland by using high quality, locally sourced ingredients and Indian spices to give people an authentic taste of India. Smriti founded her company while in Cycle 2 of the SINGA Factory program in 2018. She has already catered a number of events, including the apéro for the SINGA Factory Final Event in December 2018 at Kraftwerk.

Smriti Chhabra, Founder of Delhicious, in a co-working session at Impact Hub Zurich.

Nadine and Kebede, Solomon, Elie and Smriti are part of the second cohort of SINGApreneurs of the SINGA Factory (June – December 2018), a startup program for people from refugee and migrant backgrounds who want to start a business in Switzerland. They have been developing their business ideas together with business coaches, their mentors and the SINGA team while expanding their local networks in Switzerland. All their hard work culminated at the SINGA Factory Final Event on 10th December 2018 at Kraftwerk, SINGA’s biggest event of the year. Here, the SINGApreneurs pitched their business ideas and projects to a large public audience and connected with potential clients, team members, business angels and partners.

Coworking in the SINGA Factory. From left: Seraina Soldner (Co-director and Founder of SINGA in Switzerland) and SINGApreneurs Mehrdad Mirsepahi and Olga Khinich.

The SINGA Factory is SINGA in Switzerland’s flagship program and aims to address the challenges that many people from refugee and migrant backgrounds face in the Swiss labour market. These include: lack of access to local networks, coming to grips with the Swiss system and business culture, limited access to finance and language barriers. Nonetheless, newcomers often bring new ideas with them and consider solutions to problems that long-term residents might not see. This is the source of inspiration for our motto “Innovation through Diversity.” New perspectives can lead to innovation in all fields and, since many of those who have come to Switzerland in the past years wish to stay long-term, we can in future expect to see more innovative ideas that address the Swiss market.

Read more about Nadine and Kebede, Solomon, Elie Smriti and the other SINGApreneurs in the SINGA Blog. The SINGA Factory is supported by the Kraftwerk partner Engagement Migros.

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