Our Story

Welcome Merchant is the liaison between refugee entrepreneurs and the wider community in Australia


We are an award-winning social enterprise with a mission to champion the voices of entrepreneurs & artists who identify as a refugee or as a person seeking asylum in Australia. Lack of connections and communication, as well as digital savviness often mean that many refugee-powered businesses in Australia operate in the dark and don’t receive the attention they deserve. As a social enterprise, Welcome Merchant acts as a directory, making it easy for conscious shoppers to find unique gift hampers and products and cultural events operated by underrepresented entrepreneurs, all while making a meaningful social impact.

We offer a free online directory and free skill-building workshops to refugee and people seeking asylum entrepreneurs. How do we fund our free services? Through our Gift Hampers and Curated Dining Events, facilitated in partnership with refugee entrepreneurs.

In 2023, WM Founder Marjorie Tenchavez was named as one of the NSW Humanitarian Award Recipients by STARTTS & Refugee Council of Australia, “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by Third Sector Awards and Asian Australian Leadership – Community & Advocacy Category.

In January 2023, we were given accreditation by Social Traders Australia. We are also a proud recipient of the City of Parramatta’s 2023 Growing Social Enterprise Grant.

In 2022, our founder was named by Women’s Agenda as a Finalist for Emerging Leader in Non-Profit and nominated by Urban List as one of the “30 Faces Changing the World by 2030“. In 2021, we were nominated for Frankie Magazine’s Good Stuff Awards.

Marjorie Tenchavez
Founder and Director

Marjorie is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert. She is a proud first-generation Australian from a Filipina background.

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Prior to starting Welcome Merchant in 2020, Marjorie had been working in the social justice space since 2011, at organisations like Metro Assist & Amnesty International Australia. She never saw herself as a social entrepreneur until she realised that Welcome Merchant can be more than just an Instagram account.

Marjorie has a Master’s Degree in Human Rights & Democratisation, where her passion for migration rights became deeper. Marjorie is available for consultancy work on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

A passionate traveller, Marjorie has also lived in Colombo (Sri Lanka) Milan (Italy) and Istanbul (Turkey). She is obsessed with her cat, goats, dancing and good food.

Welcome Merchant is up and running thanks to the constant support from our volunteers


Arianna Lim
Events Photography

Arianna is a Melbourne-based communications professional with a passion for fair food access.

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She has completed the Master of Environment at the University of Melbourne, where she focused on sustainable food systems and policy. Prior to this, she worked as an intern for Harlem Grown, a New York-based not-for-profit striving to improve nutritious food access and literacy among children. She’s originally from the Philippines and has spent much of her time in Australia working to vegetarianise Filipino cuisine. 

Tasneem Zavery
Newsletter Writer

Tasneem is a skilled storyteller, passionate about people and community stories.

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Tasneem has more than ten years of experience within national, and international media. She has worked, and gained work experience in the capacities of a print journalist, feature writer, content writer, copywriter and a community correspondent for radio.

Her family, and friends swear by her gooey brownies. Mum to a cheeky toddler, and an avid rerader.

Her quest for sharing people stories continues…

Megan Tapia
Grants Researcher & Writer

Megan has spent the past fifteen years working in the higher education & research sector in London and Sydney.

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Her current management role at UNSW supports her development as an authentic and purposeful leader, motivated and energised by the positive social impact created by making responsible decisions through inclusive collaboration with diverse groups of stakeholders.

With a background in hospitality and complementary medicine, Meg has previously studied Business-Marketing & Remedial Massage and is currently completing a Health Science degree, as part of her life-long learning journey.

Practicing yoga and meditation, cat cuddles, and travel are some of her great joys.

Emma Spiteri
Events Lead

Emma is passionate about equality, social justice and helping uplift local communities.

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With a background in customer service, student accommodation and event support, Emma loves to meet people from all walks of life. She is inspired by other people’s stories and enjoys learning & understanding different cultures.

Emma studied event management and she believes in the importance of using events to build connection and elevate communities.

Emma lives on Boon wurrung land in Naarm/Melbourne. She enjoys visiting art galleries, drinking chai and spending time with her family.

Poppy Burnett
Events Photography

Poppy is a photographer, writer and arts worker living on unceded Gadigal land.

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She has a Master’s in Social Work and now works for Headspace.

With Irish and Luxembourgish heritage, Poppy retains a deep connection to Europe, and lived in Barcelona for a year in 2019 where she learnt a lot about creative community organising and activism. Her hobbies include playing the banjo, ocean swimming, and doting on her dog.

Lulu Dowell
Marketing

With a strong background in marketing and events, Lulu is a passionate advocate for human rights, feminism and racial justice..

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and she wants to utilise her skills and knowledge to make a positive impact.

Having spent many years traveling and living abroad, she values the opportunity to experience different cultures and meet people from all walks of life. Lulu holds a Bachelor of Business (Management) and an MBA (Marketing).

In her spare time, Lulu can be found walking her dog, immersing herself in nature, being active and spending time with friends and family. As a self-described food lover, she believes that the only thing better than a well-cooked meal is a perfectly-baked dessert.

Katie Clinch
Events Support

Katie grew up in England, and in 2010, she planned to travel across Australia for a year, but 12 years later, she’s still here.

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Katie has a deep passion for quality customer service, creating memorable moments and experiencing new cultures.

Cheyenne Bardos
Product Shoot & PR Support

Cheyenne volunteers her time by shooting Welcome Merchant’s hampers and assisting with Press Releases.

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Cheyenne was also our first volunteer e-newsletter writer. She is a first-generation Filipino immigrant whose family moved to Wagga Wagga, NSW, when she was seven years old. She has just completed a Bachelor in Commerce/Media (PR and Advertising), she loves photography, writing, and creative strategy. Her latest projects include producing editorial pieces spotlighting women of colour in the creative industry. She also loves cooking and eating her way around Sydney!

Mariia Zhuchenko
Curating

Mariia is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, experienced Front of House manager and event producer.

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Her working methodology is dialogical and collaborative, and her practice is inspired by her Russian heritage, storytelling and placemaking. She completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts with Honours at USYD and a Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership at UNSW. Mariia currently works as Sales Associate at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney, where she manages client relationships and overseas art fair partnerships. As Deputy Chair, she contributes extensive knowledge of the food and hospitality sectors, visitor engagement and project management.

Cristal Chovanec
Events Support

Cristal is an experienced administrative & events professional who’s passionate about social justice and supporting local communities.

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She is inspired by people’s stories and cultural heritage, having lived abroad for a decade and traveling extensively during that time. She enjoys celebrating diversity through food, music, art and community engagement.

Roshini Randeniya
Events Support

Roshini is a Sri Lankan Neuroscience researcher and educator based in Sydney.

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She’s passionate about ethics and equity. She loves exploring new places. Will get distracted by food and dogs.

Sasha Manusama
Web Content

Sasha is a content producer based in Naarm/Melbourne.

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She has worked in various creative roles across mid-sized startups and large national corporations. She’s passionate about refugee rights and is excited to get to know the asylum seeker entrepreneur community in Melbourne and right around Australia.

Melissa Chen
Events Support

Mel is a lawyer with many years experience working in the community and government legal sector.

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She is currently the Senior Lawyer at the Australian Centre for International Justice, which pursues avenues for accountability and redress in relation to serious violations of human rights. Mel is a big foodie, loves boxing and pilates, and is a regular library bookworm.

Samuel Kostevc
Videographer

Samuel is a cinematographer based in Melbourne, Australia. His work specialises in intimate, human stories…

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…often told through the format of documentary and commercial. 

Prioritising the perspectives first and foremost of those on the other side of the lens, Samuel is interested in exploring more ways of seeing a diverse range of stories presented in a dignifying and empowering way where the human experience is front and centre, told in beautiful, moving frames. Check out Samuel’s work here.

Maham Malik
Directory Content

Maham is a web content writer, copywriter and graphic designer based in Melbourne.

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After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Media Sciences (Advertising) from Pakistan, she had the opportunity to work as a freelance writer and designer with various people across the globe. She is very thrilled to create content and engage with the refugee and asylum seeker entrepreneur community!

Her downtime involves having chai, shopping, working out and going out to discover new eateries around the city.

Madhavi Sekaram
Events Support

Madhavi is a lawyer at Slater and Gordon and currently works in civil child abuse claims for First Nation Elders.

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Her areas of focus lie in human rights law, international policy and social justice.  She grew up in Sri-Lanka, and is now based in Naarm/ Melbourne.

Rochelle Gunn
Blogging

Rochelle is a Perth based freelance writer with a passion for sustainable living and wellness.

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She uses her writing to inspire others to lead more mindful and environmentally conscious lifestyles, exploring topics such as natural skincare and tiny homes.

With a background in the higher education and research sector, Rochelle spent many years welcoming international PhD students to Perth and helping them adjust to life in a new country.

Rochelle has studied abroad in Indonesia and travelled extensively throughout South East Asia. She spends her downtime playing with her pup Emi, reading cookbooks but never making anything from them and seeking out waterfalls on scenic hikes.

Nrutya Sangdhore
Blogging

Nrutya is currently working as a Receptionist where she has the privilege of meeting people from diverse backgrounds.

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She graduated from Macquarie University with a degree in Communications and then decided to further her studies in Digital and Social Media, Professional Publishing and Writing through Curtin University. Her downtime revolves around blogging, hanging out with her dog, working out, shopping and listening to music.

Sara Bamford
Events Support

Sara is a qualified nutritionist based in Naarm/Melbourne. Having worked in various communities across Australia…

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…Sara is passionate about health equity and supporting community connection.

She is currently completing studies in dietetics and loves the beautiful way that food can bring people together and foster learning across cultures. Her other passions include travelling, hiking and seeking out flaky pastries!

Marielle Punzal
Events Support

Marielle has a background in PR, marketing and publishing. She discovered a passion for beauty when she interned for a beauty site…

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…and has her work published in a variety of beauty publications. She has also worked on the PR and Marketing side for luxury beauty brands and champions diversity and inclusivity in the beauty industry. Her passions include reading, writing, makeup, skincare and spending time with family, friends and her dog, Maisy.

Urvashi Sekaram
Events Support

Urvashi is a digital business analyst currently working at a venture studio, where she collaborates with early-stage tech founders…

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…to build digital products using agile, human-centered design approaches. Her passion for emerging technologies and their potential to drive social innovation has inspired her to find ways to share her knowledge and time in the non-profit space. As a born traveler and adventurer, she can often be found planning her next remote working destination or immersing herself in Melbourne’s art and cultural scene.

AR
Workshop Design

AR comes from an education and international development background.

He joined our team to help us

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design our capacity building workshops for the entrepreneurs and artists we work with, to ensure that they are getting the most out of these workshops.

Erika Clavano
Copy & Ad-Hoc

Erika has a background in the media and publishing industry, working across campaign management, production and communications. 

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Passionate about social justice and championing diversity, she is excited to support and learn more about the refugee communities. 

Fernanda Priego
Events Support

Graphic Designer, pickle lover, frustrated singer, skywatcher and, according to her mum… she is also a good person.

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Moving from Mexico to Australia almost 10 years ago Fernanda’s journey has been full of contrast. From working in a gelato store, a multinational tech startup, and became the face of ‘the best pizza cooking classes’ on the front page of an Adelaide newspaper. Her biggest passion has always been meeting new people, listening to their stories, and gaining new perspectives on life.A naturally curious creature who’s always looking to fulfil her eagerness to learn, explore, and expand while her inner child takes command… once in a while.

THANK YOU TO PREVIOUS VOLUNTEERS

Welcome Merchant would like to thank our previous volunteers, Adriana Rey, Cam Gunns, Sofiah Fauzi, Rachel McCluskey, Kate O’ Donnell, Jarrad McCallum, Kandice Stern, Amro Zoabe, Brooklyn O’Connell, Lindy Ralph, Tess Fletcher, Hugh Van Schaick, Khyathi Khirbath, Mawghan Elverd, Ellie Stamelos and Jayden Hallett (who volunteered with us for 2 years).

Want to volunteer with us? Get in touch!

Please email: hello@welcomemerchant.com

Frequently Asked Questions

How can we be featured on Welcome Merchant pages?

Simple! Reach us via our Contact page or email us: hello@welcomemerchant.com

Does my business have to have a social media account before it can be featured on Welcome Merchant?

No, we can still promote your business in our online directory and on our social media channels. We can also help set up your social media account for you!

How can I hire a refugee-owned business for my next event?

We can connect you to one! Please send us a message on our contact form or email us. 

Want to support the work we do?

Become our Patreon!

Welcome Merchant in the media