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We have organised our first Demoday event and this is what happened

On the 22nd of January 2019, we had our first DEMODAY event in a nice building, EPOS, situated in the heart of Brussels. Just to refresh your mind; Fresh Start entrepreneurship courses consist of 12 sessions, which aims to connect participants’ talents and needs with the host society’s urgencies. The courses motivate and encourage participants to tap their potentials and reach for their dreams in a new country, that they call a second home. In our DEMODAY, they had an opportunity to pitch their businesses (roadmaps) in front of potential investors and employers, and also to enlarge their networks in the host country.

We strongly believe that newcomers and refugees with an international and diverse background can contribute positively to the host society in many ways as employees of all skill levels, entrepreneurs, innovators, taxpayers, consumers and investors come together.

Many researches have shown that entrepreneurship helps solve social problems, boosts the economy, raises the numbers of employment, and widens the markets and opportunities. What is more interesting, enterprising migrants are one of the important piece in entrepreneurship ecosystem. Due to their risk taking nature, and willing to face the challenges ahead, these characteristics help increase the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the host country to become more dynamic, and opportunistic. Moreover, thanks to refugees’ diverse perspectives and international experiences, they can help spark new ideas and innovations to the host country. And that’s why we provide inspiring and engaging trainings, as well as events to empower our participants and unlock their full potentials.

So let’s start how we organized our DEMODAY event. We used several channels to invite and disseminate our event. Besides sending emails to our networks, we used some other channels such as: LinkedIn, Facebook, Meetup, WhatsApp and face-to-face communication.

We had helped and taught the participants how to network in a host country, and how to find networking events relevant to their backgrounds.

In our DEMODAY, we had invited amazing and talented speakers to give their presentations and tips to the participants. After that, our participants had an opportunity to pitch their businesses and roadmaps in front of employers and potential investors. In the end of pitching sessions, Fresh Start programme handed each participant a certificate graduating the course. By the end of the day, we had finished the DEMODAY with some art show (Ebru and Tile art) and networking drinks. As a result, we are happy to see how participants and guests enjoyed their time in our program, and how it had lived up to their expectations.

A little bit about participants’ profiles

Hakan, a therapist with ten year of experience, has been working side by side with Fresh Start participants as a therapist. He has helped participants cope with stress and anxiety when needed in a new host country. Hakan finds Fresh Start courses very useful and educational.

Another participant, not named here, who also has been practising as a lawyer for more than 20 years finds our program as very valuable, too because he got a chance experience the working ethic and environments of host country, to improve his langue, and the course gives him self-confidence to take initiatives and seize opportunities. In addition, after our program he got acceptance from a university for a master in law and have a chance to attend a law training program.

Ola, another participant of Fresh Start, also has made a remarkable evaluation about our program. She said that “Before coming Belgium I had a 12-year experience in health sector in different fields. I started with Fresh Start at the very important point of my life, my new steps here in Belgium. By attending the Fresh Start sessions gave me a better understanding of Belgium society, the working system, Belgium job market, and most importantly, a start of networking and friendships. Whether working in a hospital or at my own clinic, I want to invest my experience here in Belgium, I believe that the combination of my experience with different backgrounds in such a high developed health system in Belgium, using high technology will produce a great outcome.”

Another participant from Mexico, Edgar Tristan, who has a PhD in acoustic and also a talented guitarist, conveyed his gratitude: "Fresh Start has allowed me to meet people in a situation similar to mine, with similar problems to face when arriving in a new country. This program has shown me several ways in which this country moves, and has expanded my vision to be an entrepreneur. Fresh Start has helped me not to feel alone on this new road."

On top of that, many participants told us that they feel like home while attending Fresh Start course, and they were very happy because the sooner they’ve learned something about host country, the better they can navigate their career directions and goals here.

Lastly, our director of smart organizations, Jose Trimmers has given us a positive conclusion on Fresh Start and cited that “This is truly a project with societal impact!”, in which leaves us and participants a very warm uplifted and hopeful feeling as a reward.

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