Here at Ben & Jerry’s, we’re super proud of our Ice Academy which is run in partnership with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), – but we’re more proud of our graduates and the awesome things they’re doing. Usman is one of our graduates from this year – check out his story below!
So here I am, I said to myself. I looked out of the window and saw a British Airways plane being towed along the runway. My first view of a different land, first breath of a cold but fresh air in a different world. I took a deep breath, looked outside the window of my plane and said, in a voice which only I could hear: ‘Welcome to the United Kingdom’. I touched the down in the land of Heathrow, London on a fine evening of February the 17th 2007. Although I was 3 days late for Valentine’s Day, I still fell in love with the city the minute I walked out of the terminal. That love has grown ever since despite some bumpy rides on my journey to where I stand now 12 years later, writing this blog post. As my love has grown, I found it being increasingly based around four things: fish and chips, old historical buildings and pubs, football and, last but not least, a good coffee. The smell of those beans, freshly ground, a nice cup of Cappuccino seemed like a drink made in heaven.
Although that love has been there pretty much all of the time, sometimes the realities of life come in between, and so was the case with me when I had to fight for a long time to get my visa status back on track. It took me 9 years of hardship and fight until I got my refugee status in October 2015. The pain I went through over those 9 years was immense but the joy of getting my refugee status, and the thought of pursuing my dreams freely, was even bigger. It didn’t take me long to start integrating into society, looking for jobs as I started a MSc degree in Marketing. And then those long-lost loves started growing up again. I began walking and exploring places and smell of coffee came back. Out of this, a dream of opening my own coffee place started.
After I got my refugee status, I started hunting for jobs and landed an internship with a charity called Counterpoints Arts which works for refugees through arts and culture. My experience working with them is a story for another day, but it is through that connection that I came to know TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network) - helping refugees to setup their business in UK through mentorship and guidance. The idea of owning a coffee place was there in me and so I decided to contact TERN, and they took me on board. TERN turned out to be more than just any old organisation where you go and attend some course. I became part of the TERN family and made some good friends there. The four months programme they run in collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s is known as the Ice Academy, and it equips refugees like me (who they rightfully call entrepreneurs) with essential tools and understanding of the business world in the UK. They also provide an opportunity to work with Ben & Jerry’s which helps provide an understanding of managing your own workspace.
I feel lucky to be part of Ice Academy and since the time I joined them, I learnt a lot about my potential business and the business world in the UK in general. The program is now finished, and I am on my way now and ready to accept the new challenge of starting my own venture, called Haven Coffee, all because of the help and guidance provided through Ice Academy but the best part is that they are not stopping here. TERN is there to take my dream on further, helping drive me to turn my coffee shop dream from an idea into reality over the coming months. I have very good memories with TERN and I hope in a couple of months I will be writing again to share more insights as I progress onto the next step of my journey. Coffee shops offer an oasis of calm and peace from the outside world, and I hope you will join me one day soon in a Haven Coffee shop to share my love for them.
This blog post was written by Usman, a graduate of our 2018 Ice Academy
To find out more about the Ice Academy check out this page.