Rosanna Barbero has just hung up from a frustrating phone call with a customer service representative for a large electrical retailer, trying to sort out an issue with a faulty device. She is exasperated.
“This is exactly why the Ignite Resource Team is crucial,” she explains. “How does a new arrival to Australia, with limited English, navigate the system?”
Ms Barbero is a member of the Ignite Resource Team – a group of volunteers from local businesses, councils, chambers of commerce and other areas who share their business knowledge, skills and networks with budding entrepreneurs of refugee background supported through the Ignite Small Business Start-ups initiative.
“Systems and procedures are never straightforward and can be very frustrating,” Ms Barbero says.
“If this is the case for locals, you can imagine what it must be like for someone who hasn’t been in Australia long, has limited English, and is trying to establish themselves as a small business owner.”
Ms Barbero was the first member of the Team, which was established in 2013, and she says it is needed now more than ever. She was attracted to Ignite because it empowers people and supports them to be self-sufficient, rather than create a situation of dependency.
“With a background in aid work, I know from experience that the Ignite model is the best way to create genuine and sustainable small business development.”
As General Manager of Addison Road Community Centre – a nine-acre hub of culture, diversity and sustainability – Ms Barbero saw the potential for her role to help facilitate product testing with minimal risk for the businesses.
“Addy Road provides avenues for Ignite entrepreneurs to sell their products at our markets, or exhibit their art in the gallery,” Ms Barbero says.
“It is a safe environment to test their product and negative consequences are minimal.”
The most recent street food festival held at the Centre, which included Ignite stall holders, attracted a staggering 5,000 people.
Everyone was pleasantly shocked, and Ms Barbero explains that the community appreciates the cultural capital that newly arrived refugees bring to Australia.
“When you spend time with new arrivals to Australia, and particularly refugees, you realise that we are all similar and the differences are in fact minute.
“Everyone wants a life with dignity, to provide for their families, and to be connected with their community.”
If you are interested to learn more about Ignite or have skills you can share through the Resource Team, find out more here.
If you are interested in other volunteer opportunities with SSI, please visit the volunteer page.