Supporting Refugee Entrepreneurs in Pima County: A Collaborative Journey 

Danny teaching a group
Danny teaching a group
Danny teaching in front of the group

Through a thoughtful community collaboration, The Jewish Family Child Services (JFCS)  SASIC program introduced a bilingual two-part workshop series May of this year, designed to teach newly arrived Afghan refugees about some of the cultural and legal differences of starting and running a business in the U.S. as well as essential knowledge for potential entrepreneurs. By partnering with Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and Startup Tucson, this initiative aimed to offer concrete support and guidance to individuals aspiring to establish and grow businesses in Pima County. 

Throughout the series, the workshops addressed a range of topics important for small business ownership, such as business planning, financial management, marketing strategies, and legal considerations.

Danny Knee, Executive Director of CIC, focused his presentations on the similarities and differences in attitudes about business and money in Afghanistan and the U.S. He also covered concepts of debt and attitudes towards its use which are very different in the U.S. than in Afghanistan.   “My goal was to first understand the class participants’ perspectives on and experiences with business,” said Danny. “The starting point for our conversation focused on how much they already knew instead of what we thought they might need to learn. In the end, we learned as much as anyone in the class. I appreciate more fully the difficult realities of operating a small business in Afghanistan and how the instability of the political situation made so many things that we take for granted here in the U.S. that much for difficult, if not impossible at times.” 

We’re thankful that JFCS and Startup Tucson included our team in these workshops. 

Danny mentioned, “In the end, we learned as much as anyone in the class. I appreciate more fully the difficult realities of operating a small business in Afghanistan and how the instability of the political situation made so many things that we take for granted here in the U.S. that much for difficult, if not impossible at times.”  Danny further expressed his appreciation to JFCS for giving CIC the opportunity to learn directly from refugee small business owners in our community.  

“By listening and staying closely tuned to the current realities entrepreneurs are navigating and their needs, it creates room for us to innovate,” he said. “JFCS’s clients are kind, thoughtful, hopeful, and resilient people who have already suffered so much as refugees of war.  Our hope is to develop our programs, tools, and solutions to help the refugee community.  Their perseverance is humbling and inspiring.” 

At CIC, our mission is to foster economic inclusion for all residents of Southern Arizona, irrespective of their socioeconomic status. We firmly believe that no one with the desire and determination to participate in our economy should be left on the sidelines. This collaborative effort between JFCS SASIC, Startup Tucson, and Community Investment Corporation showcases the power of partnerships and the idea of collective impact we can achieve in fostering economic inclusion and uplifting our community.