IMG 2496

Refugee recognised for strong entrepreneurial spirit

Post Series: SSI Stories

When Yarrie Bangura arrived in Australia aged 11 in 2004, she brought with her an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to give back to her new country through a homemade ginger tonic recipe.

Fifteen years later, with the support of the SSI Ignite® Small Business Start-ups initiative, Ms Bangura has been able to take a much-loved family recipe and empower herself and others by developing “Aunty’s Ginger Tonic” into a fully-fledged business.

The recipe originated in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where ginger is celebrated nationwide.

The natural remedy, made by her aunty and grandmother, was given to the community to ward off colds and encourage digestive health.

Ms Bangura knew the road would not be easy to launch her beverage business, but she was determined to overcome all obstacles.

“My mother was worried for me, but I used to say to her: I know it’s going to be hard. I want to break that stigma that I am a refugee, that I am a black woman, and therefore I cannot achieve in a foreign country,” said Ms Bangura.

With the support of Ignite®, Ms Bangura went on to set up a street food market stall, allowing her to interact with customers who wanted to know more about her product. Ignite® then paired her with a mentor who had a background in the food and beverage industry.

Today, Aunty’s Ginger Tonic is not only a regular stallholder at Sydney’s well-known Addison Road Street Food Markets but a thriving business that supports others experiencing vulnerability in the community.

Ms Bangura’s motivation for setting up her business while she studied international development at university was to make the most of the second chance she has been given and contribute to Australia by bringing this healthy, traditional African drink to the community.

“I wanted to give something different, something that would contribute to the economic growth of Australia and also the health of Australia,” Ms Bangura said.

Ms Bangura was recognised as an AMP Tomorrow Maker in 2016 to help accelerate her tonic business and her cause to help others. More recently, she featured in SBS’s The Employables.

To Ms Bangura, Aunty’s Ginger Tonic isn’t merely a business; it’s a symbol of her past, her future and the power of community. Through her business, she strives to “give back” to her fellow Australians and to inspire others in the refugee community to follow their dreams.

“I believe this country is a land of opportunity for all … if you work hard. It might be difficult for some people, but if you find the right people to work with, it will be an easy journey.”

For more information about SSI, click here.

For more information about Ignite® Small Business Start-ups, click here



Settlement Services International (SSI) is the principal sponsor for Refugee Week 2019. This series of stories are stories of resilience and engagement from across their network.