Meet the Woman Amplifying The Voices Of Refugees



Starting a business is tough. It’s even tougher if you’ve recently arrived in Australia as a refugee – which is why Marjorie Tenchavez set up Welcome Merchant, an online directory and social media page that helps promote businesses run by refugees.

Since launching in 2020, Welcome Merchant has promoted more than 130 refugee-run businesses across its channels, and sold hundreds of hampers filled with products created by refugees. Welcome Merchant has also held more than 40 events, from pop-up markets to dinners, speed-friending nights to art exhibitions, showcasing the vibrant talents and products of refugees.

Tell us about the moment that changed everything…

It was 2020 and I found myself just constantly buying from online stores, especially from Buy From The Bush [the Instagram account that encouraged Australians to purchase gifts from rural businesses]. I was at my old job [at community services agency Metro Assist] just sitting at the office and I had a lightbulb moment. Why can’t I create something like this for refugee entrepreneurs? My second thought was: I wish I’d come up with this six or seven years ago!

Welcome Merchant's pop-up market in Melbourne which featured 15 stallholders from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Image by Broke Stills.

When did your passion for refugee rights begin?

When I was at university, I met this lovely person who was running a volunteer group called Villawood Vollies, and they organised community visits to the Villawood Detention Centre. I volunteered for about a year, visiting once a month. But I’ve always been community-minded. I’ve always had an interest in giving back and community development.

An Iranian pop-up dinner held at Hope St Radio in Collingwood. Chef Mahshid Babzartabi can be seen talking to the diners. Image by Broke Stills.

What three words sum up the journey of building Welcome Merchant?

Tough! Running a social enterprise that relies on events is tough. But it’s also rewarding and fun.

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