This two-year project provides workshops for refugee women in Oxford who want to set up their own food-related businesses.

Daisy cake and group activity

The project offers the opportunity for the women to get together with others in a similar situation and with similar interests in food and to build friendships, support each other and tackle social isolation.

The idea for the Maymessy Mentoring project came from participants involved in other projects delivered by Maymessy CIC. In past activities around the sharing of culture and cuisines, refugee women expressed an interest in wanting to set up their own food businesses. Sessions cover areas of business support such as social media and marketing, setting up business in a farmer’s market, along with support with English and cultural differences as the women all have English as a second language.

Participants have different cultures and backgrounds but share a passion for food. In Oxford, social isolation can be particularly prominent for refugees and so the project provides a place for women to meet and learn together.

There are many barriers to the participants working in the food industry or starting their own business such as language barriers, and discrimination. Through partnering with local business owners, and residents with skills and insights to share, this project is supporting the refugee women to understand how to set up their businesses.

Benefits have been seen throughout the community as more people have been brought together to learn from each other. Participants who were previously isolated now have the confidence to engage with the community more, and speak about their businesses with others.

The impact on the community is also huge. It’s a lovely two-way learning experience. We’re able to learn about new cuisines, cultures, languages.

Anna Richards


Funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised by Health Lottery South East