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Brwa Albadwee: The refugee who opened his own hair salon in Thessaloniki

 Journalist: Apostolos Staikos
Operator/Editor: Simon Chabas

My dream has come true. How could I not be happy?” says Brwa, who in February 2024 managed to open his own hair salon in Thessaloniki.

The 27-year-old Kurdish refugee from Iraq is one of the people supported by METAdrasi’s “Ready for Business” programme, which is addressed to refugees and asylum seekers who want to prepare their business plan. The programme is implemented in partnership with UNHCR.

For a long time, I had been thinking about opening my own hair salon. But I had no money and I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what the process was or which services to contact. I heard about METAdrasi’s programme, and this was the opportunity I was looking for. A good idea is not enough; you have to make a business plan. You have to explain what you want to do, how much it will cost, and what your goal is,” says Brwa.

Back in his home country, he worked as a hairdresser for three years. Then he arrived in Greece in 2017. A year later, he enrolled in a vocational lyceum and completed his studies at a technical high school, majoring in hairdressing. In the following years, he worked in hair salons in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Mykonos, but he always wanted to start his own business.

He really wanted to open a salon; he was always talking about it. For a long time, he was looking for the right place. I think he will do very well; he believes in himself, and of course, we will help him. We are good friends, and we will stand by his side,” says Ioannis Kapagiannidis, a friend and regular client of Brwa.

In August 2023, the 27-year-old refugee joined the “Ready for Business” programme. In September, with the help of METAdrasi’s team, he completed the business plan and started looking for funding from institutions and individuals. The capital for starting his business was provided by The People’s Trust.

“It is very difficult for anyone to open their own business, let alone for people with a refugee background who have no contacts or knowledge of the Greek market. Within the framework of the programme, we offer business consulting to help the refugees develop their own business plan, as well as legal and accounting support,” says Maria Theodoropoulou, head of METAdrasi’s Entrepreneurship Programme.

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One of the main pillars and priorities of UNHCR is the integration of refugees. We cannot talk about integration if we do not help them gain access to the labor market. Refugees have new ideas that, if we use them constructively, can lead to multiple benefits for our society,” says Anastasia Benekou, from UNHCR’s Sustainable Solutions Sector.

Although he has lived in several places in Greece, Brwa loved Thessaloniki. He rented a small apartment, made friends, and now has his own hair salon. Of course, he faced difficulties. Many employers rejected him because he didn’t speak Greek very well. But he did not give up; he studied and now speaks and writes better.

Brwa found it very difficult to get a job. People didn’t give him a chance. But he is a very good barber, so my friends and I decided to help him. We created an Instagram page for him, and of course, we all visit his salon regularly. We are very happy because he made it,” says Ioannis Kapagiannidis.

In the beginning, his customers were mostly people of refugee background. But slowly, many locals crossed his door, wanting to meet him, learn about his services, and wish him all the best in his business. ΦThere are also several refugees who ask him for information. They are interested in opening their own business and want to know more about the process and the steps they need to follow. The 27-year-old Brwa answers their questions and refers them to METAdrasi.

The organization is an ‘open door’ to those who need help. Speaking about the ‘Ready for Business’ programme, if there is a good idea, the candidate will receive the right support, move forward, and succeed in realizing their dream,” claims Brwa Albadwee.

As time goes by, the salon is gaining a steady clientele. Many people trust him, including the elderly and younger men who get their hair cut together with their children. As for the future, the 27-year-old refugee dreams of opening two more hairdressing salons, one in Athens and another in Thessaloniki. He also wants to provide free haircuts and other services to those in need in the future, starting a “social hair salon.”

Greece has given me life again! I feel like I was born a second time. This hair salon gave me great joy; I achieved an important goal. I have many dreams for the future, and I believe I will succeed. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get this far,” says Brwa.

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