This Foreigner Can: Rafael dos Santos

The start-up founder tells us why he sold his last business to launch a company with "a social impact" and about overcoming funding challenges...

Name: Rafael dos Santos
Company name: This Foreigner Can 
Location: Greater London 
Date launched: 1 June 2015 
Website: www.thisforeignercan.com

Tell us what your business does:

This Foreigner Can is a social enterprise that improves the lives of migrants by training them to become entrepreneurs.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I am a migrant and I have been an entrepreneur in London for 12 years. I have been mentoring other migrants and realised that there is a huge demand for mentoring, funding and workspace from migrants who are ambitious and want to start their own business but don’t know how.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I completed the bulk of my market research at Stratford where I asked 200 migrants if they would like to start a business and if they did, what was stopping them.

What were you doing before starting up?

I had a estate agency and I sold it. I wanted to run a business that was meaningful and had a social impact.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes. I like the freedom of making my own decisions.

How did you raise the money?

I am pitching to investors to fund my business.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

This Foreigner Can (TFC) has two business models.

The first is a training programme called Migrant Business Accelerator, which is where migrants are selected to receive funding, mentoring and attend workshops to learn how to run a business.

We receive payment from the migrants who are going to attend the accelerator and 1% of their start-up.

We are in the process of launching our first workspace, where we will provide desk space with mentoring, so it’s not only about renting a desk but also getting help to create a successful business.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge has been raising finance and trying to convince people that the business is a good project to invest in. It’s been tough but we’ve raised 60% of our overall target already.

What was your first big breakthrough? 

When the first investor decided to invest, and then the second and third. It was really difficult but we got there in the end.

Also, when we were featured on the Financial Times and a lot of people got in contact with us.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

It’s difficult to start but you must keep pushing. Imagine you are rolling a rock to the top of a mountain. If you keep pushing at some point the rock reaches the top and to roll down (the payback) is a much easier!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time

We want to have offices in the top five largest cities in the UK and have helped at least 500 migrants become entrepreneurs.

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