Adam Elhaj is originally from Sudan and started out as a refuge but has now been living in the Netherlands for the past 10 years as a citizen. Studying International Development, he sought out to be a social entrepreneur who works on livability, social cohesion, inclusion and local change for refugees; and is currently in connection with other organizations to make all this possible. He sees himself as a facilitator, who’s passion derives from “wanting to play a role within his community”. Starting his Joyful Earth company in 2018, Mr. Elhaj first thought of working around farming in a sustainable way. Leading to his own establishment of a women’s garden in Uganda after gaining inspiration from the Moestuin. The produce made is mainly hibiscus, baobab and dried ginger which is then transported and sold in the Netherlands as organic and ecofriendly products. His unique selling point derives from the fact that there are organic products produced by refugee women from Sudan in Uganda. “It is a product with a story. It’s not just the buying of the product itself. You are buying a product with a story.” Says Adam with a happy and accomplished look.
He then spoke of advertising mainly through word of mouth, social media and flyers. Also organizing events on occasion where people can come and free taste the products. However, despite all the efforts and ambition, Mr. Elhaj expressed the various difficulties he faced when starting up his business. Trying to transport the produce for one, proved to be extremely strenuous due to the amount of paper work one needs to establish a business in the Netherlands as a refugee. “Things like taxation, making reports and quarters every 3 months and trying to find reliable retailors among the Dutch people also proved to be difficult”, he expresses. Trying to grasp everything and looking for assistance, Adam reached out to the municipality. Unfortunately, they did not recognize the business as a “bunkable”. There was then no choice but to put an indefinite halt on the business. He is now currently sustaining himself through transportation.
The advice Mr. Elhaj has for immigrants and refugees wanting to start a business in the Netherlands is “to have a stable job first so as to have time to network and learn how things work paper work wise”. He then also advices that one should “have a deep understanding of what they want to do first” and recommends not to if doubtful because one needs vast, well rounded knowledge and sheer will to begin a start-up. From what he has learnt and achieved, Adam wishes he could have changed the timing. “I’d have preferred to have started later where I would have been more settled and well equipped”. Still content with what he has achieved so far though, Mr. Elhaj very much looks forward to continuing his business soon. As he has some new ideas for his business and how to market it. Leaving customers greatly anticipating the ‘Joyful Earth’ return.
There are some already available products however, if one is too excited to wait. Which can be found and ordered on www.joyfulearth.net/ .
Article done by Colleen Lole