Rising up to business challenge

Lucy with Chaw, Alison and Sharifeh. 154924 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS


New migrants and refugees are tapping into their talents and getting Ready to Fly.
Social enterprise Space2b has brought its mentoring program to Heritage Hill in Dandenong and each fortnight helps budding entrepreneurs to finesse and potentially monetarise their skills.
Co-founder Janine Lawrie said it was aimed at participants who’d been travelling to the original Space2b site in St Kilda, opened two years ago, plus newcomers to the concept.
“I’m a designer and I always was looking to find things made in Australia rather than going overseas,” she said.
Inspiration struck when a friend connected Ms Lawrie to a refugee named Abdi who dreamed of becoming a tailor.
Her business partner Mariam Issa said: “You Westerners, you’re always worrying about the who and the how, let’s just do it!
“Now I get what she means,” Janine said.
“We opened up a pop-up in St Kilda for nine months.
“We had a gallery shop and a workspace and it just took off, really.”
Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre (SMRC), AMES and other organisations refers clients to Space2b in Dandenong.
Ms Lawrie said a lady named Lhakpa worked with a mentor last year and was now mentoring one of her own friends.
“That’s the whole aim of it, is that you then become the trainer,” she said.
Ready to Fly co-ordinator Lucy Worsley said the Dandenong workshops started at the end of March and will run through to Christmas.
“It’s two sessions a month,” she said.
“They have homework in the meantime, between sessions.
“It also means that they can create things and establish products at home where a lot of the work is being done anyway.
“At the end of this we’re going to hold a market, a celebration market, where they can sell their creations.”
Participants include dressmakers and seamstresses, knitters, jewellery-makers, basket-weavers, painters and more.
“The group is mixed backgrounds and cultures,” she said.
“They learn about the different cultures and accept each other.
“Then they have to speak English, as well.”
Chaw Po from Springvale South was cutting pant patterns when she spoke to the Journal.
“I do both children’s clothing and women’s fashion,” she said.
“I also make jewellery as well.
“I never stop learning new things.”
Lucy added: “We’re constantly learning from you as well.”
Sharifeh Amiri from Dandenong and Noble Park’s Abuk Bol were both learning clothing pattern skills to make their designs easier to reproduce.
“I wanted to improve my skills and improve my English language,” Ms Amiri said.
“In the future I would like to teach my skills, if I can.”
She also has a design course in her sights.
They’re looking for volunteers who can buddy with participants to help them fill out forms and practise their English skills.
“Space2b is all about making connections and to become integrated and accepted,” Ms Lawrie said.
“They introduce them to their family and everyone learns about the culture.
“It’s always a two-way.”