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Mariam’s booming business

Friday April 27, 2018
By Ahmedshakur Ali

Mariam fled drought and conflict in her area of Somalia. Now she’s a successful entrepreneur, having doubled her profits with our support.

Three years ago, Mariam Hussein, 38, and her family fled the southern Somalian town of Burhakaba because of drought and conflict. She relocated to Baidoa, 65 kilometers away, where she sought assistance.

“We could no longer sustain our life and had to run for the safety of our eight children,” she says.
She has six sons and two daughters. Since first seeking refuge in a settlement in Baidoa for displaced people, she has been the primary breadwinner for her family.

“Every day my husband goes to the city centre, hoping to find work. Sometimes he earns something, but most times he comes back empty handed.”

Back in her hometown, Mariam used to herd animals while her husband would perform ad hoc labour for cash. “Because of the drought, most of our animals died, and by the time we reached Baidoa, I sold my last two goats for cash.”

Starting a business from home

With that money, Mariam was able to start a business.

“I knew I had to find a way to meet my family’s needs, so I began selling groceries out of our tent.” This would eventually become her family’s main source of income for the next few years.

Families in the settlement benefit from the proximity of her shop, as the settlement is far from the city centre.

“Not all families could afford groceries. I have an informal system of loaning groceries out to families and collecting the money from them whenever they can pay for it,” she explains. Her story resembles that of many other displaced entrepreneurs in Somalia.

Training and funding displaced entrepreneurs

Mariam did not earn much and made less than USD 10 a day from her in-home grocery shop. Through a programme supporting entrepreneurs run by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Somalia team and Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS), and with funding support from DEVCO, Mariam now earns up to USD 25 a day from her business.

“We have been working in Baidoa since 2013, and the city has become an epicentre for over 260,000 displaced people,” says Kassim Mohamed Adam, head of our office in Baidoa. “The challenges are many, but programmes like this encourage people to become self-sufficient and withstand the shocks that come with drought and conflict.”

The BRCiS programming seeks to train and assist displaced people and host communities in Somalia. Mariam and other businesswomen were given entrepreneurship training that focused on management of small enterprises, record keeping of profit and loss. and strengthening the relationship with Baidoa’s main supplier market. After the intensive five-day course, Mariam received a USD 500 grant to expand her business.

“I no longer operate the business from my home as I have expanded it to include clothing as well,” says Mariam. She has shifted her business to a market we constructed in her settlement under the BRCiS project funded by DEVCO.

“Working from the market with other business people makes me feel more secure.”

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

As a result of her increased income, Mariam has enrolled four of her children in school. When asked about why she decided to become an entrepreneur, she says: “There aren’t many other options to earn money, owning a business is a dignified way to earn money to raise your children and to cover your family’s financial needs.”

What is her advice to other entrepreneurs?
“Record your earnings, use some money for your basic needs and save the rest to grow your store. Expand your network and educate yourself about trends so that you bring the right products in your store.”
Mariam’s working capital has increased by USD 300 and she now operates with USD 800.


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