Success story

Refugee who fled Syria in 2012 built award-winning business in the U.K.


After a bomb detonated outside of her husband’s office in 2012, Razan Alsous decided to leave Syria with her family and seek asylum in the United Kingdom. Five years later, the mother of three is an award-winning dairy industry entrepreneur who was recognized by the prime minister. But Alsous’ path to success not been easy. While she was granted asylum within a month, it took more than two years for her husband to receive permission to live and work in the U.K.  “Sometimes I was very down, I was very tired,” recalled Alsous, who spent a year looking for a job while doing some part-time translation work. “Having the kids, having no friends, no social life, nothing in this country, it’s not easy.”

She dreamed of owning her own business, however, and settled on making cheese, missing the delicious haloumi she was used to having back home. After a year of experimenting in the kitchen, researching the market and applying for a small-business loan, she was granted a license to produce and sell cheese in June 2014. She dubbed her product Yorkshire Dama Cheese (short for Damascus) and became an overnight success at her local food fair. She won bronze at the World Cheese Awards only four months later, competing against 2,750 other contestants. One year later, she even took home the gold medal and caught the attention of then-Prime Minister David Cameron. “To be recognized by higher authority as an immigrant or foreigner coming to a new country, from war … I was very proud of that,” she said. She recently moved to a larger location, which was opened by Princess Anne, and was able to hire two local employees. She sells her cheese all over the United Kingdom, working with four distributors. “When I started I always thought it was a really good idea,” she said. “But I couldn’t imagine I would reach [this level of success] in just three years.”

Read the full story at CNN.


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