Cork businessmen want to help an entrepreneurial refugee

Cork businessmen want to help an entrepreneurial refugee
John Dennehy and his three friends have set up GetStart to help a refugee set up a business. Pic: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Four Cork businessmen are trying to help a refugee set up a business.

John Dennehy and his three friends have clubbed together to give a €20,000 loan to a refugee who wants to start their own business. 

They will also provide support, advice and business contacts. 'GetStart' is the name of their project.

Mr Dennehy is the Chairman and Founder of Zartis, a software development and IT recruitment company.

"It's us four friends from Cork. We each have a business, I'm in Cork, and the rest are in Limerick, Madrid and London."

Mr Dennehy says the idea first came to them when they saw what happened in Oughterard. There was serious opposition to a potential Direct Provision centre being opened in the Galway town, which eventually resulted in the tender for the centre being withdrawn.

"The whole conversation was framed as refugees being a negative thing, like they would 'sponge off the system'."

"Good people come into Ireland as refugees, there's untapped potential there."

"It's particularly relevant for us here in Cork. Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant, and a lot of Cork people owe their jobs to Apple."

"People focus on the cost of Direct Provision too much, and don't see the assets that comes in."

Mr Dennehy and his three friends are not affiliated with any group or government policy. "We have no government support, no agenda. We aren't political people, we are business people."

"We can set the person up with contacts, offer them advice and support, and we also give them capital of €20,000, which they will pay back once the business is viable."

"It's a good thing to do, but it's also common sense," says Mr Dennehy.

He says the business idea can be anything, as long as it is feasible. "It can be people with a trade who want to set up a business, such as plumbers, painters or electricians."

"Cafés, caterers, hairdressers… the software sector is also possible. I know many Syrian people in Ireland who are very senior in the software sector."

The Cork businessman adds that many refugees have already set up viable businesses in Cork. "Izz Café does a roaring trade. The Syrian Bakery, Alsham bakery, is also very successful."

"We are trying to find a refugee that's entrepreneurial to give them a start. We just need one smart, driven person. We don't mind what business it is, as long as they are willing to commit."

"We hope their business will create jobs for Cork as well," he adds.

"We have everything in place, we are just looking for the person now. If it goes well, we can do it again with another person."

To apply for the initiative, you must be an asylum seeker or refugee based in Cork, be able to commit to the venture full time, and have a clear understanding of the business opportunity and prove that you can make it succeed.

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