Sharing Knowledge Blog Series #3: Advice from a Successful Business Owner

Refugees, readied with resilience and determination, are rewriting their stories through entrepreneurship, transforming past challenges into the foundations of their future success. However, refugees starting on their business journey may encounter unique challenges. Kaleed Rophael is an English tutor for Navitas Skilled Futures’ Volunteer Tutor Scheme, which supports adult migrants and humanitarian entrants as part of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) to develop their English skills and settle into life in Australia. Kaleed was born in Iraq and came to Australia in early 2000. Nowadays, as a successful business owner, he reflects on the challenges he faced as a refugee in the early days of starting his business. Kaleed first arrived in Australia in Melbourne and stayed there for six months. He then decided to move to Sydney to start his new life and achieve his ambitions. He studied a Diploma in Pathology at Granville TAFE, then applied to Sydney Uni to study orthoptics (to be an eye specialist) where he achieved a Bachelor of Orthoptics. But even after all his hard study, he wasn’t feeling satisfied with life until he shifted careers to work in finance, specifically, specialising in home loans in 2007. While busy running his business and sharing his time teaching English, Kaleed also wishes to share his unique insights with those who may be thinking about starting a business. His initial challenges were not as great as they may be now because he started up at a time when there was high demand for his services. He notes,

The challenges I experienced with my finance business were not much, and the reason was I think the finance market was very hot at the time and there were big demands on mortgage brokers from the mid 2000s till now. But still there are no doubts that I had some obstacles establishing my own office to start my business, such as funding and building up my own clients”.


Kaleed shared that since 2019, things have become more difficult due to “competition and challenges to get funding to establish your own business”, and in addition to this, while some small businesses may not require large amounts of start-up funds, some migrants and refugees lack “knowledge and experience to get their business going”. This could be around legal requirements, taxes, and other Australian-based systems. 

Helpful links:

Sharing Knowledge Blog Series #1: Essential Skills for Starting Your Business (And How to Get Them!)

Sharing Knowledge Blog Series #2: The First Steps to Take to Start Your Own Business in Australia

Kaleed’s most important tip for someone starting their own business is “be eager and love the career you want to do. You must like your job to succeed in it. Also try not to feel frustrated and sad from first hurdles you face.” “The big mistake I experienced wasn’t related to my business but was related to protecting and promoting myself financially,” he says.

“I realised that whatever business you run and whatever money you earn from your business, you need to invest a part of your income into things like a home or shares with prosperous companies so your money can make money.” Kaleed stresses the importance of having a support network around you with friends, family and mentors that you can turn to if times are challenging. He also states that studying English and having a good grasp of digital technology are essential for business owners in Australia. Kaleed studied the English language in Iraq and so he came to Australia with a good base understanding. While in Australia he continued to learn English plus business and computer skills – “this gave me a big boost of confidence.”

“An important issue is that the person must improve and keep themselves updated with the current progressing technology otherwise they will see themselves behind the queue. Understanding, reading and writing English is very important. For example, for me, the way I communicate and use correct financial terms helps me a lot to improve my business and persuade clients.” The AMEP, which Navitas Skilled Futures is running, is very useful and by sharing my experience starting a business, I hope it will encourage others arriving in Australia to do also. From Kaleed’s experiences we can see the following points are important to consider when starting your own business during your settlement journey:

  • English language skills and understanding digital technology are crucial for effective communication with customers, suppliers, and partners. 
  • Make good use of the money you make from your business – find ways for your money to make money.
  • Have a good support network. Never underestimate the value of networking events, business associations, and community engagement in establishing connections. Equally, having a support system is essential for well-being. 
  • Get to know the systems and requirements for business owners in Australia. 
  • Know the market – is there demand for your business? Is there a gap in the market for you to fill or is there already too much competition that might make things hard?
  • Embrace failure: Entrepreneurship involves risks, and failure is a part of the journey and to be embraced as a learning opportunity.

Navitas Skilled Futures is here to help. The AMEP has options to help you get started with developing your English skills, plus specialist digital skills courses. Digital learning is included in every single course.Where to begin? If you are in Sydney or Canberra, contact Navitas Skilled Futures (NSF) to find out if you are eligible for the free, government-funded AMEP. If you’re in a different area, you can find your local provider here. Access more information about the above programs at NSF at the following links: Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) | Free English Classes ( Pathways to Work (PtW, SLPET) | Gain Work Skills ( We’re here to help you to build a better future and reach your goals of starting a business. Contact NSF on 1300 798 111, email or click here to find out more or enrol.

Thank you to Kaleed Rophael for his help with this article.

EXPRESS HOME LOANS Kaleed Rophael 0405 176 490 Address: 33 The Crescent, Fairfield NSW 2165

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