On a shopping strip in Melbourne’s inner west, a group of women realizes their business dreams. A peek through the colorful shop window of the Casa Bonita Cultural and Empowerment Hub, a social enterprise in Seddon, reveals six businesswomen huddled around a table laden with accessories, athletic attire, and homeware.
They enthusiastically discuss which products to display at the front of the shop in the lead-up to MMother’sDay and how best to present them. There is a flurry of suggestions when talking about how to package the items for maximum gift appeal. The collaboration between the women is what the social enterprise is all about. As well as being a showcase for crafts and a space to engage with Latin American culture, other migrant women are also invited to share the room for working and retail.
Liliana Bravo Quiroz knows how difficult starting a business in a new country can be.
Originally from Colombia, she came to Australia as an international student and stayed on due to dangers in her homeland. The businesswoman and mother say it takes practice to develop confidence speaking in English, that creating networks from scratch takes time, and that not having a family nearby to help look after children can be challenging when juggling several priorities.
She established Hola Bonita, the business model of which the shop is a part, to help female migrants gain practical business experience while developing their English. “”e need to create opportunities for people who have no experience in Australia because they are very talented,””she tells SBS News. “hey can create a whole business that can support other women, that can create jobs.”“Meaningful mentorships
A pilot program at the hub has provided five international students with mentorship and hands-on experience in business, including learning about e-commerce, managing an inventory, styling, and customer relations.
It gave Colombian participant Brenda Gil the confidence to develop her own plants and handcrafted pots venture in a courtyard at the rear of the premises, called El Boske Botanico.
“” learned how to create your own business, how to manage the inventory, all the other things that you need to do as a business,””she says. “”iliana taught me that.””TThat’swhy I was ready when there was the opportunity here to just create my own business.”Ms. Gil is studying therapy and remedial massage and hopes in the future to combine her skills and love of nature in business. Renting a small, affordable pop-up space at the hub also enabled Indian-born Ridhima Sachdeva to test interest in her products and tailor her business to the Australian market before committing to a permanent setup. “”you really need to understand the market; it’s very different from what we are coming from,”” says the creative director of Hemera Labs, which makes handmade embroidered goods.
Having learned embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework in London and established a business designing shoes in Britain, she understood consumer trends in the European and Asian markets. But when she moved to Australia two years ago, she had to start over.
It was just altogether, like, learning from scratch,””she says.
“” had no idea about the basics. What is the accounting system like? It is actually so different. What is the design aesthetic here in Australia?
So that was also one of my key research areas when I moved here.
Through events and networking at the hub, she learned that consumers really liked silk scarves and gradually added them to her inventory.
Barriers to entrepreneurship
IIt’snot unusual for migrant and refugee entrepreneurs to encounter challenges. Language barriers and a lack of networks can often play a significant role. Additionally, a lack of recognition of overseas qualifications, plus limited experience with Australian taxation and accounting systems and industrial rules, can all have an impact.