There are not many feel-good stories out there about refugees fleeing the ever-escalating violence in Syria – an embattled country that has witnessed more than three years of civil war with no end in sight.
However, Razan Alsous’ story is one of the very few exceptions.
Alsous, now 31 years old, left Syria for the United Kingdom in July 2012, seeking a better future for her family. She wanted to start her own business and went for cheese-making after noticing the scarcity of halloumi – a breakfast staple in Syria.
“Halloumi is very popular in Syria; we would usually have it for breakfast. When I came here I noticed there is not always halloumi available, sometimes it is just in the summer or in supermarkets,” she told The Yorkshire Post.
“I did some research and discovered the U.K. is the second largest consumer of halloumi in Europe, but it’s not often manufactured, it’s imported.”
Months of her hard work and dedication paid off this year, when Alsous founded Yorkshire “Dama Cheese” in June. The small factory won a Bronze at the 2014 World Cheese Awards at the BBC Good Food Show in London on November 14.
However, Alsous says the involvement of the West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency was vital to her success.
“I wanted to do something that helped my family and built a good future for my kids in our new home. I went to the job center and told them about my hope to start a business and they referred me to the West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency and placed me on the New Enterprise Allowance.”
“My mentor was brilliant and gave me all the information I needed to start up the business. Everything seemed so daunting and at times I wasn’t sure where to start but she helped through the entire process.
Yorkshire Dama Cheese is selling its products across the region but Alsous hopes to expand her business all over the country.
“I am very optimistic and excited about the future. Within five years I am confident I will be in bigger premises, be offering a wider selection of cheeses and have more customers.”
Watch Razan Alsous’ tremendous journey in the video below: