New Roots Stories: Helping Communities Talk About Ethnic Identity
18 November 2021 - Impact Hub London

Zey Binboga is the Programmes Manager at Kurdish House London. Last year she became a participant on New Roots, our programme for aspiring entrepreneurs from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, and powered by GoDaddy.

With an interest in ethnic identity, she shares her career journey, securing over £10,000 funding during the programme, and future ambitions.

What led you to entrepreneurship?

‘As a child of refugees, I struggled with pressure from my family and community regarding what my career should look like. My mother fled the war in Cyprus, and my father fled persecution in Turkey, and they came to build a better life in the U.K. My whole life, I was being raised with the expectation to study at a prestigious university and get a prestigious career; eventually, after changing courses, I stopped studying. My sense of wanting to empower people economically started when I was 18, and I started my social media marketing business; I found solace in being my own boss. 

Later on, I started working with Kurdish House London (KHL), a network of Kurdish entrepreneurs and professionals. I met role models who came from my background, proud of their identity and contributing to society. This profoundly affected how I now view my cultural identity and has boosted my self-confidence and self-worth.

KHL was based in Impact Hub King’s Cross for years, which was an excellent opportunity for me to connect with the fantastic staff and introduce our members to the great opportunities Impact Hub has to offer. A significant programme being New Roots, which I also completed. At KHL, we helped 10 Kurdish entrepreneurs onto the programme. In New Roots 1.0, Kurds were the largest represented ethnic minority.’


What value did you gain from New Roots?

‘Displaced was a business idea I came up with soon before I applied for New Roots. It was inspired by my newfound pride and intrigue in ethnic identity, especially since I had grown up predominantly with Cypriot people, never fully appreciating my Kurdish identity until I got involved with KHL. Displaced started as a card game to facilitate conversations on cultural and ethnic identity among diaspora communities. 

Through New Roots, I learned things that helped me with Displaced and KHL. Workshops on the business model canvas, pitching, and finances were particularly impactful. Through transparency and great conversations with the Programme Manager Samira, I learned about running programmes in a non-profit, which helped me develop ones for KHL. 

Through the programme, I realised how complicated creating a card game would be with my current access to resources. I decided to keep the card idea for the future and instead build workshops that facilitate the conversations we wanted the cards to trigger. By the end of the New Roots programme, we secured over £10,000 funding and designed the Generational Immigration Project (GIP) through a partnership with a community organisation.’ 


What have been your achievements and future goals?

‘We designed and piloted the Generational Immigration Project, which explored the experiences of three generations of immigrants. Some of our participants were family members. They even learned things they had never heard of before, e.g. my mother found out about the discrimination her sister experienced when they first moved to London as they fled the war in Cyprus. We learned about the expectations and experiences of different generations and helped establish bridges between the ages to develop understanding and awareness of individual experiences. We conducted detailed assessments of 80 participants through GIP and ran workshops for over 60 participants across 3 generations from Turkish-speaking communities. 

Our short-term goal is to train more volunteers with lived experience from various ethnic backgrounds to pilot the Generational Immigration Project. We want to expand our workshops and Generational Immigration Project to more communities. We’d also like to share the stories we have gathered through art forms, such as film and books. Our long-term goals are to partner with organisations to improve their services and engage young adults from minority backgrounds. We’d also like to create a card game where young people from ethnic minorities can have the conversations from our workshops in their own homes.’


We’ll soon be releasing the profiles of our current New Roots cohort – keep an eye out for our upcoming post or get the latest updates on our monthly newsletter!

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