Refuge invests in refugee-owned and run businesses, through active impact investing and peer-to-peer lending that connects refugees who critically need access to capital with people who are interested in creating impact through their investments.
Harnessing a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, these investments provide refugees with access to the capital and services they need to create successful revenue-generating businesses.
Refuge's funding model differs from traditional microloan organizations. Refugees receive capital via preferred return to the investor, allowing refugees to “pay as you grow” and investors to create more good with their money.
“A study by the Ewing Marioni Kauffman Foundation found that in 2012 immigrants to the US were almost twice as likely to start businesses as people born in the US.”
We founded Refuge to address the gaps in traditional support models for refugees, provide opportunity to migrant communities, and encourage entrepreneurship. We saw programs that provided access to loans for refugees end because of an end to the government grant that provided its funding. We saw this dependency on federal funding to be unsustainable and unpredictable, especially as we know the number of displaced people around the world is growing. We saw programs that limited cash assistance to refugees who wanted to start their own business to only 5-years after they arrived in the US. This often meant refugees prioritized basic necessities like using the cash to buy a house or car over the daunting task of immediately starting a new business in a foreign place. We saw that even when these programs disbursed funds for entrepreneurship, they were often in the form of microloans, which can lead to confrontational relationships and place a heavy burden on a newly-resettled refugee.
At the same time, we were inspired by the incredible resilience, strength, and economic impact of refugees and migrants. Immigrants to the US have been shown twice as likely to start businesses as people born in the US. Studies in US cities have shown refugee-owned businesses significantly contribute to the local economy, job creation, and tax revenues.
Refuge uses private funds to invest in refugee-owned and run businesses. We’re not dependent on or limited by federal funding. Instead we deploy active support for refugee-run businesses through a peer-to-peer impact investing platform and technical assistance. This model allows us to be dedicated to social impact while creating strategic and sustainable investments.