Culture

You Need To Follow This Instagram That Highlights Refugee-Run Businesses Across Australia

If you've been wanting to support local, this is the account for you.

welcome merchant

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With COVID-19 impacting spending and earning across Australia, Welcome Merchant is using the opportunity to highlight the refugee-run businesses that need support.

Started by Marjorie Tenchavez on Harmony Day back in March, Welcome Merchant is a volunteer-run Instagram page dedicated to giving “a free platform to entrepreneurs from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in Australia”.

As a migrant herself, Marjorie made the switch from the corporate world into working with community organisations through volunteering efforts. From here, Marjorie was inspired by accounts like Blak Business, Spend with Them and Buy from The Bush, to create a page that specifically helped out refugees with their marketing and reach free of charge.

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Tired of #IsoBaking? Don't panic, Sydney-based bakery & social enterprise, @thebreadandbutterproject, will make sure that you will still get your sourdough and pastry fix! Besides producing excellent bread, The Bread & Butter Project has been providing new careers for #refugees & people seeking #asylum in Sydney. This venture sounds like an actual slice of heaven! One of their former trainees, Ma Du said this: "had it not been for The Bread & Butter Project, I would have struggled to find work in Australia. I would not have the confidence that I have now". #welcomemerchant #instagood #breadandbutter #ourdailybread #bakedgoods #bakery #bakers #jobs #futurebakers #socialenterprise #refugeedreams #sydneybusiness #supportlocal #smallbusiness #supportsmallbusiness #hospitality #hospojobs #innerwest #marrickville #onlinestore #onlinebakery

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Launching right after the bushfires and just before lockdown started, Marjorie was initially worried about putting pressure on people to buy things, but then realised that migrants would be those most affected by the impacts of COVID-19.

“I didn’t want to put pressure on people to buy things, but then I thought about the extra pressure that the refugees and asylum seeker entrepreneurs were going to face during lockdown. So I went ahead with it,” Marjorie told Junkee. “Many have no access to government support, also many of them are not confident with online marketing and I had hoped that Welcome Merchant would at least boost their profiles.”

Like Marjorie, co-runner Adriana Rey — who joined the page in May — is also from a migrant background, and so understands the struggles that people, who seek asylum and a better life in Australia, face. Originally hailing from Colombia, Adriana empathised with many of the Venezuelan refugees who settled in Colombia over the time she lived there.

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It's National Reconciliation Week and we'd like to pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging. Adriana is a friend of mine who is now helping me manage this page. We both live on Gadigal land & we'd like to acknowledge and pay our respect to the Eora Nation People, the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand. It is really important that we all continue to work towards reconciliation in Australia. It's about the unity and respect between Aboriginals and non-Aborignal people. We need to work towards overcoming the division and inequality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. I (Marjorie) would like to thank @blakbusiness and @tiddas4tiddas for inspiring me to start this account & highlighting the great work that many Aboriginal entrepreneurs & community leaders do. #NRW2020 #40000yrs #ReconciliationWeek #redfern #InThisTogether #blakbusiness #AlwaysWasAlwaysWill #welcomemerchants #australia #WOC

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With coronavirus putting a few industries out of work, Marjorie and Adriana decided to focus on places that were still able to operate, like restaurants offering takeaway and online stores. But now as restrictions are starting to lift, the pair are excited to feature as many refugee-run businesses as possible through their own personal shopping habits and by community recommendations.

Using refugee-support sites like Humans Like Us, SSI’s Ignite program, Global Sisters and Thrive Refugee Inc, in combination with support organisations across Australia, Marjorie and Adriana have also been able to increase their database of businesses to promote. Beyond just promoting refugee-run business, Marjorie and Adriana also make an effort to shout out the businesses that make a point to hire migrant workers as part of their ethos.

As the Welcome Merchant page continues to expand, the pair are excited by the possibility for future projects like networking events for the merchants to meet after COVID-19 restrictions fully lift. While only currently a side project for Marjorie and Adriana, they hope that they can eventually get a corporate sponsor and funding so they can turn their side project into a full-time service with a support website and database for refugee-run businesses in Australia.

“We’d love to turn Welcome Merchant into a charity with donations being used to fund the project,” Marjorie shared. “So that we can both quit our jobs and just focus our time on helping entrepreneurs with community engagement and marketing.”

You can follow Welcome Merchant here and recommend your favourite refugee-run businesses by sending an email to:  [email protected]