This refugee lacked money to open a physical bakery, instead, he sells his Aleppo Sweets online
Economics student at Davidson College helps refugee launch a bakery business. They lacked money to open a physical bakery. So they opened an online bakery with fulfillment through the mail.
Aleppo Sweets opened in December 2017 and they are hoping to expand and raise awareness both of the business and Youssef’s story as a refugee. All orders are fulfilled and shipped the next day, sweets arrive approximately within 3-4 days after the order. Visit Allepo Sweets website.
Rebuilding the Future
Youssef is a master baker whose bakeries in Aleppo were destroyed during the war. His dream is slowly becoming a reality since he has been working with Mohammed ElSarhan, an Economics Student at Davidson college in North Carolina.
Aleppo Sweets began because of how frustrating it is to find authentic Syrian desserts in the United States.
Mohammed was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, but his family is from the countryside of Aleppo, a city in Syria. One day over the summer of 2017, Mohammed searched for a place that sold Syrian desserts online and would ship them out to him. Unfortunately, none of them seemed appealing.
One of the key benefits of migration is that immigrants bring skill sets that are typically rare in the host country. The results are valuable both culturally and economically.
Mohammed explains; “I realized that this void was a potential opportunity to help refugees support themselves in their new country while sharing and taking pride in their culture. I reached out to a few friends involved in aid work asking if they knew any Syrian bakers who might be interested, and Youssef immediately seized on the opportunity.”
Youssef owned several bakeries in the city of Aleppo before the war.
Youssef Akhtarini is a baker from Aleppo, Syria. Baking has been in his family for generations. Before the war, Youssef’s bakeries were constantly full and provided catering for parties, weddings, and funerals. However, in 2014, Youssef and his wife were forced to flee Aleppo for Turkey with their five young children after his bakeries were destroyed and fighting intensified.
Life is very difficult for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as there is little protection under the law and it is much more expensive than in Syria.
Youssef worked long hours at restaurants and bakeries to support his family. But life was very difficult. Opportunities for advancement are rather limited in Turkey. Therefore, Youssef and his family registered with the UNHCR for resettlement.
In October 2016, Youssef and his family were resettled in Providence, Rhode Island. Of course, Youssef had heard the stories of America and was thrilled to be able to rebuild his life in the land of opportunity. Optimistic about what the future held, he took jobs baking at restaurants and cafés but still dreamed about starting his own business.
How it all happened and why their story is one of a kind
I met Youssef while I was taking summer classes at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. I had given him an overview of what I was thinking over the phone, but it was incredible to speak about it in person and see his enthusiasm, passion, and determination. However, the best part was that he brought me a sample of baklava and his reaction when I told him (truthfully) that they were the best I ever had.
Refugee lacked money to open a physical bakery
They both agreed to create the business. The months that followed were full of difficulties, setbacks, and finally the opening of the business in December of 2017. Youssef is still learning English. And this business would have been impossible had Youssef not been such a positive and inspiring figure. The community in Rhode Island rallied around him to support him as he sought to realize his dream.
Youssef’s first goal is to expand the business to the point where he can open a physical location in Providence, Rhode Island. Currently, he is renting kitchen space in the early morning so that he can fulfill orders.
Aleppo Sweets is working to partner with aid organizations to create fundraisers in order to donate a percentage of sales to support other refugees in the United States.
Ultimately, Youssef hopes to succeed in America for the benefit of his children, whom he hopes to one day send to college. More information on Youssef can be found in an interview video on their FaceBook page. All orders are fulfilled and shipped the next day, sweets will arrive approximately 3-4 days after order. Visit Aleppo Sweets website.
All content and photo provided by Mohammed ElSarhan, an Economics Student at Davidson college.
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