Free childcare for female refugee entrepreneurs: our partnership with TERN

by | About Bubble

Starting your own business requires many things. Time, resources and investment are the necessary foundations, but that’s usually just the tip of the iceberg. What’s often overlooked is the degree of support that founders need – from friends, family and their wider network. For those who don’t have that kind of support system in place, things can be much more difficult.

At Bubble, we want to support parents to be all they need to be – regardless of circumstance, finances and background, we believe that every parent deserves the right to great childcare so that they can follow their own dreams whilst taking care of their families. 

That’s why we’re excited to announce our new pilot scheme with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) – we will be enabling five refugee mothers from TERN to access childcare through Bubble, funded by investment companies Ada Ventures and Inovia.

Empowering refugee mothers

As a mother, you face unique challenges trying to start up your own business. You have to build up your business whilst managing the huge childcare burden that falls on women – all whilst trying to raise funding. Given that the majority of investment in UK start-ups still goes to male founders, it is clear that more barriers need to be broken down if women are to have equal opportunities as entrepreneurs. 

According to the Female Founders Forum, a group that aims to reduce the gender funding gap for female-led start-ups, one of the biggest hurdles that women face in setting up their businesses is childcare. The pandemic has exacerbated this – women have had to take on greater childcare responsibilities and more unpaid labour than their male counterparts, which has of course set back their careers.

It has been even more detrimental to refugee mothers who are trying to launch their own businesses – unlike many women who can access informal childcare through friends and family, refugee women without these built-up networks often have to manage their childcare responsibilities alone. This is part of the reason why only 5% of refugees have been able to access business support since coming here, despite 60% of them having started or managed a business outside of the UK.*

We have partnered with TERN to provide five women – Edwige, Nejat, Houda, Meklit and Yeukai – with £100 of free credit every month for the next six months, which they can spend on childcare through Bubble. The women are planning to use the free childcare so that they can go to meetings, work on their products and develop their businesses in line with their ambitions.

Meet the entrepreneurs

Nejat is one of the women from TERN who is taking part in their pilot scheme with Bubble

Nejat trained as a beauty therapist in Israel and has used her skills to launch her own business

Nejat is a single mum who runs a salon called Mazal Wellness and Beauty, which offers manicures, pedicures and natural facials. Initially from Eritrea, she fled her home country on foot when she was 14 and travelled to Israel where she sought asylum for several years.

She came to the UK by herself in 2016, and soon after was able to be reunited with her son, who is now 8 years old. She has worked as a beauty therapist in London since arriving in the UK, and her salon was ‘Top Rated’ on Treatwell in 2019 and 2020!

Although she has had to close her salon during lockdowns, she’s hoping to open up again once restrictions ease and start seeing customers again.

Yeukai founded Active Horizons to help young people from her local migrant and refugee communities

Yeukai founded Active Horizons in 2006 and it has been established as a charity since 2009

Yeukai is a mum of one living in Bexley, London. Originally from Zimbabwe, she came to the UK when she was 18 after fleeing the country as it went through a period of civil unrest and violence. She has been living here for 20 years and runs a youth organisation called Active Horizons, which supports young people from the local refugee and migrant communities.

After having experienced so many barriers as a young person coming to this country, her charity helps to provide children and teenagers with greater resources and training so that they can go on to succeed. As well as giving back to the community, she is now starting a new venture in which she creates and sells handbags made with traditional African textiles.

After focusing on her charity work throughout the pandemic, Yeukai is hoping that this childcare support will enable her to focus on launching her new business this year.

Edwige is one of the mums launching her business with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network

Edwige is really excited to bring her traditional food to a new audience

Edwige is the mum of a one-year-old boy, and is working on a new food business which she hopes to launch this year. Originally from Côte d’Ivoire, she is a native French speaker and has been living in the UK since 2013.

She wants to bring the traditional foods of West Africa to a new audience in the UK, and has a specific focus on providing organic, gluten-free and vegan foods that are still authentic to her traditional cuisine. 

Ever since her son was born Edwige has had to look after him by herself – she says that it’s hard to build connections with your community in London because everyone is so busy! She hopes that having some childcare support through Bubble will enable her to work on her business case and focus on her upcoming launch.

Houda runs Tala Catering where she makes traditional Syrian food for events

Houda looks after her three daughters by herself, all whilst running a catering business pre-Covid and now selling homemade baklava

Houda is a mum of three girls, aged 14, 11 and 8 years old. After coming to the UK from Syria, she has been working with TERN for 3 years and opened her own events catering business called Tala Catering 2 years ago. 

She specialises in authentic Syrian food, although without any events during lockdown she has had to switch from her usual catering to making and selling baklava with the Anqa collective (part of TERN). She loves experimenting with different flavour combinations which are common in Syria but are not as readily available in the UK.

Running a catering business works well for her as she can work mostly from home and still look after her children. However, she still needs to go out for deliveries and shopping so is looking forward to using Bubble to find childcare so that she can run errands whilst knowing that her children are being taken care of.

Meklit is originally from Eritrea but spent several years in Saudi Arabia before coming to the UK as a refugee

Meklit makes delicious Eritrean food – she is passionate about being financially independent and is positive that she can make her business a success!

Meklit is a mum of two – a one-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. Originally from Eritrea, she was living in Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker for over a decade after being separated from her family aged 15.

She came to the UK in 2015 and has been living in Greenwich for almost four years. She runs a food business and has found cooking a real source of comfort throughout her life – she used to cook with her mother as a child, and says that cooking helps her to remember her family and her home country.

Going forwards, Meklit has plans of building her business from a pop-up stall to a restaurant, and eventually even having her food stocked in supermarkets – she is determined to follow her dreams and won’t let anything get in her way.

Support these women’s businesses

You can find more information and links to the women’s businesses below, as well as more information on TERN:

Huge thanks to Ada Ventures and Inovia for their support with this partnership.