Transforming Refugees into Entrepreneurs with Bizgees: A Founder’s Story

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Bizgees transforms refugees into entrepreneurs. How? By implementing innovative solutions in post-conflict zones that allow refugees to take ownership of their own lives and boost job creation in local communities. 2 years after completing The Leap, our 3 month, online incubation program, Co-Founder Zulfiqar Deo tells us how Bizgees is harnessing E-commerce and Fintech to create meaningful impact for refugees across the world.

Behind Bizgees

‘For the first time in living memory we are allowed to legally produce our own money.  Our campaigns generate new money using crypto which is sent to refugee communities we support.  This project produces money at all times 24 hours a day 7 days a week—yep, even while we sleep.’ Zulfiqar Deo

Co-founder of Bizgees Zulfiqar Deo is not afraid to tap into the latest innovation trends to find solutions which will have a lasting positive impact on refugee communities. But not only this, talking to him it’s clear that his focus is on making these solutions human-centered. He’s driven by understanding the needs and challenges of refugee communities and actively engaging members in solutions. He feels that refugees have the same aptitudes as entrepreneurs, initiative and problem solving skills built through necessity. 

Ultimately, Bizgees is rooted in creating connections whilst regenerating post-conflict communities and celebrating their heritage.  Various challenges such as lack of security and political restrictions  mean many  local communites in post-conflict areas are isolated, socially and financially. To solve this, Bizgees aims to find solutions to connect refugees to a global, eco-ethical supply chains whilst combating financial exclusion. The project stems from the fact that many individuals in these communities were interested in developing businesses and becoming part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, but did not have the right mechanisms to do it. 

 
Bizgees

Photo taken from Arts4refugees Facebook page

A Unique Fintech-based Solution

Alternative finance is one of the financial sector’s fastest growth areas; in the EU alone, it is worth over €10.44 bn and it is already changing how we organize financial services.  It is helping to financially include members of society who struggle to access mainstream services. It’s not surprising then, that it struck Zulfiqar as a great fit to support refugees who were struggling to access the world of finance. 

The Bizgees solution, which is currently still being developed, is based in crypto mining and cryptocurrency, using computing to generate new money for refugee communities. They custom design financial services suited to the needs of these communities, a human-centred design approach unique in the financial services world.  For example, their initial financial service was a micro-franchise fee micro loan, which is interest free, collateral free and offers flexible repayments whilst creating a credit profile for the micro business. 

In addition to this, this micro loan allows  3-5 refugees to receive training, inventory and business mentoring to set up a successful micro business supporting them to earn living, pay back their loan and create local jobs.  It also helps them build a financial footprint  and access the mainstream financial system.

E-commerce: targeting sustainable consumption

Bizgees, however, does not only provide Fintech based solutions, but is tapping into the increasingly popular sector of E-commerce in which they have organized four streams of income.  These four channels  target the growing market of consumers who want to enjoy fashion in a sustainable way.  The team believes in using e-comm to generate peer to peer engagement between their customers and the makers. This way both groups learn about each other and feel part of the global community. Through this and an increased understanding of the eco-ethical supply chain, post-conflict areas can be regenerated. 

  • The first channel is created through POD or Merchandise produced demand, where Bizgees works with local artists and designers to build their brands in a project called Arts4Refugees, allowing them to earn money from their artwork. 
  • Alongside this, they also work with women artisans in post-conflict communities to produce designer bags and pre-sell them through crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter.
  •  Not only this, but they’re also using virtual fashion to support refugees. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s dedicated to using digital technology to reduce fast fashion consumption which generates 20% of industrial waste globally. 

However, perhaps the most innovative of the Bizgees E-commerce solution is based in the Luxury for rent market. Many artisans have a strong skill set but struggle to connect to a supply chain. This is where Bizgees come in. They enable local artisans to earn money for their products through the ‘luxury for rent’ concept by connecting them to the global marketplace and allowing them to plug into this new supply chain through digital technology.

Why does is this solution so effective? Because it is rooted in generating a circular economy. There is very little waste since items are re-used multiple times and  pressure of generating units decreases since rotation of the product makes up for lack of volume. Equally important is the fact that the model allows for more people to engage with products in that region. Buying unique, hand-made products can be expensive, making them inaccessible to many potential customers. However, renting lowers the cost, meaning more people are able to enjoy them and learn about the process and community behind that product.

‘We’re not reinventing the wheel we’re saying, this is taking off – let’s plug into it. It allows us to use a circular economy model to support refugees.’ -Zulfiqur Deo

A Final Word

‘As entrepreneurs we are propagating entrepreneurship and ownership of people’s own lives by using market mechanisms. That’s at the core of what we do’ – Zulfiqar Deo

When asked about challenges he has faced in his entrepreneurship journey, Zulfiqar suggested that a key obstacle had been accessing support specifically aimed at social enterprises. Thankfully, he says that the concept of social enterprise is becoming increasingly mainstream, there are now more Venture Capitalists  and Angel Investors than ever before who get it and understand the measures that need to be implemented for these businesses to succeed. He encourages entrepreneurs not to be afraid to chase these opportunities now opening up for social enterprises.

Bizgees took part in The Leap, our 3 month incubation program online 2 years ago, if you too would like to develop your business with us, click here

Or, to learn more about Bizgees, click here

Phoebe Smith

Phoebe Smith

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