“In Syria, I was an entrepreneur. That was no coincidence; being an entrepreneur suits me.”
Born in Damascus, Syria, Abdulah participated in his family’s business from 2007 to 2013, eventually becoming a branch manager. In 2013 he also opened his own restaurant, HotDog, in the capital city.
Unfortunately, civil war disrupted his life in Damascus. Abdulah had to leave his native country in 2014, ending up in the Netherlands. “Until the civil war, I had a good life with good prospects. In the Netherlands, it was virtually impossible for me to find a job that fitted in with who I am and what I can do.”
Forced to decide how to best provide for himself in a new country with limited resources, Abdulah chose to pursue entrepreneurship. In 2017 he joined forces with a friend to start a company, Charley Trading, buying trucks in Europe over the internet before selling and exporting them to contractors, transport companies and other businesses. They specialise in Volvo trucks and have customers in locations all over the world, including places such as Dubai and South Africa.
When the business was in its early stages, Abdulah was introduced by the Municipal Social Services to Qredits, Youth Business International’s member in the Netherlands, in partnership with the Citi Foundation. Qredits is the only nationally operating microfinance institution in the Netherlands, and it works to strengthen the country’s entrepreneurship culture. They offer a number of services to entrepreneurs, including financing, training and mentoring.
Abdulah is a graduate of Qredits’s EigenBaas, or “Be Your Own Boss,” training programme. Launched in 2013, the EigenBaas programme is designed for two audiences: high school and vocational college students who may enrol at school as well as those not in education or employment who can attend evening classes over a 10-week period. EigenBaas courses consist of five components, each of which is mentor-driven. Potential entrepreneurs and mentors meet immediately and begin working together to forge relationships and to develop business plans.
Abdulah found the Qredits volunteer mentors particularly helpful. The biggest challenge Charley Trading faced was finding a safe place to start their business. However, it did not take long for the Qredits mentors to help Abdulah and his business partner find a suitable commercial property. They also helped with negotiation and with acquiring the necessary permits.
“Our business’s huge and amazing growth in just a few months has been our greatest achievement. We are still growing and increasing the number of sales. Over the coming months we will be exclusively focused on finding and moving to a larger location to continue meeting the demand.”
Although Charley Trading is quite self-sufficient, they continue to use their Qredits mentors as a sounding board.
After starting his business, Abdulah was shocked to achieve so much success in a challenging world. “I had not even guessed at the existence of this sector a year ago, so to earn good money has been a huge change in my life since gaining Qredits’ support. Their help has made all the difference in our success as a business, and I am so thankful for the guidance they gave us.” Most of all, through his new business venture, Abdulah is better integrated into Dutch society and was able to accomplish this much more quickly. “I have a new sense of purpose and drive, and I can enjoy life better again,” he comments.
Charley Trading has given Abdulah new opportunities in a new country. Because of his accomplishments as an entrepreneur, Abdulah has a simple message for other people on the move looking to open their own businesses:
Qredits is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.