Syrian Refugee Entrepreneurship: Refugee Entrepreneurship in Turkey: A Case Study of Syrian Refugee Entrepreneurs in the Formal Sector in Gaziantep, Mersin and Istanbul

Hanae Benjnouh & Felicia Mussagy Kristiansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The stories of the Syrian refugee entrepreneurs gathered for this study is a testimony of a growing entrepreneurial group in Turkey. Syrian refugee entrepreneurs in Turkey have all fled the circumstances in their country with hopes to build a better life in Turkey. However, due to different reasons they face challenges in their process of engaging in entrepreneurship. This has often led them to enter into the informal sector, however, those who enter the formal sector reach for help through organizations and governmental opportunities if possible as well as through their inner circle.
In order to apprehend how these entrepreneurs carry their activities given the challenges encountered, a case study has been conducted with the aim to investigate: Which barriers do Syrian refugee entrepreneurs face when conducting business in the Turkish formal sector and how are these overcome? - with a focus in the cities of Istanbul, Mersin and Gaziantep. In order to answer this research question, two sub-questions have been moulded in order to help uncover the exact barriers encountered by the entrepreneurs. As well as the role and influence of their social network theory in helping them acquiring the resources needed, to overcome these obstacles and pursuing their entrepreneurial activities.
In order to answer the research question, Alrawadieh et al. typology of challenges of refugee entrepreneurship has been applied in order to allocate the barriers appropriately. This was followed by a focus on the socio-cultural challenge dimension of the typology, allowing us to incorporate the social network theory and understand its role and influence regarding the different entrepreneurs in their attempt to overcome the obstacles encountered. The findings and analysis of the data collected reveal that the entrepreneurs encounter different barriers given their sector of activity. Conducting the study in three different cities in Turkey has offered an opportunity to extend our list of barriers. Moreover, this study has incorporated the experience of national and international organizations, allowing the study to gain in legitimacy. When looking into the role and influence of the social network theory on the socio-cultural challenge dimension, this has led us to understand the ways in which entrepreneurs use and modulate their network in order to reach the resources needed.
This study reveals that these well educated Syrian refugee entrepreneurs do indeed encounter barriers in their respective sectors of business. The most common barrier is related to the knowledge of the Turkish language, which has an effect on the entrepreneurs' interaction with the Turkish society and its systems. The analysis revealed that the entrepreneurs make use of their social networks in the form of family, friends, organizations and the Syrian community in general to receive different types of help to run their businesses. Not all barriers could be conquered, nevertheless, through their different networks the entrepreneurs were able to find solutions around their problems.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages377
SupervisorsSøren Jeppesen