Refugees Can Make Great Entrepreneurs. Here's How We Can Help Them.

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 26:  Refugees from different countries attend an information event at a new jobs counseling center
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 26: Refugees from different countries attend an information event at a new jobs counseling center for migrants and refugees at former Tempelhof Airport on February 26, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin city authorities are hoping to accelerate the integration of refugees and migrants into the local workforce. Germany took in 1.1 million migrants and refugees in 2015 and though the rate of influx has slowed so far in 2016 the country still expects large numbers to arrive this year. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

What if we viewed the influx of refugees into Germany as an opportunity rather than a crisis? This was the question I asked myself, together with a group of young Berliners, when over 800,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year. As a response to this question, we founded the "Re:Start" initiative in January 2016. Immigration had always been a part of everyday life for us.

We were able to take advantage of the free movement within Europe and easily obtain visas to study or work in other countries. Now that people were coming to Germany as refugees, we wanted to help. The question was how.

As a former aid worker, I was aware that many of the refugees' home countries have entrepreneurial business cultures. It is therefore not unusual for them to want to pursue self-sufficient occupations, such as running stores, opening small restaurants and managing successful small businesses.

It was obvious to us that amongst the hundreds of thousands of refugees, there were people who had enough work experience to be able to fully support themselves.

We got to know many of these refugees over the past year. We organized workshops, offered counseling sessions and met with young entrepreneurs who had worked for years in Syria, Pakistan and Somalia.

Take Hiba for example, a successful furniture producer from Damascus who opened a small shop in Berlin with her husband Khaled. It was important for both of them that they quickly become financially independent. Neither of them wanted to live off the government. "We can contribute something!" they said.

There's also Munzer and his friends, who developed an app to help refugees navigate the German bureaucracy. None of them wanted to leave their homeland, yet they found themselves here, and for them, sitting around and waiting was unthinkable.

  I am convinced that politics alone will not be able to successfully facilitate integration. We must all tackle the problem together and do what we can to help.

We're not naïve, we know that not every refugee will be a successful entrepreneur. However, many entrepreneurs fail, only to pick themselves back up and try again. Innovation stems from trial and error.

I recently asked a Syrian entrepreneur if he was afraid of failure. He smiled and replied: "I left friends behind, and journeyed for thousands of miles. I risked my own life, so I've already proven that I'm willing to take risks."

Another question we've been asking ourselves over the past few months is: How can we help these refugees establish themselves in the business landscape? We concluded they would need training, since markets differ from one country to another.

Thanks to the technology boom, there are countless opportunities to develop scalable business models that require little capital. It is an exciting field for refugees, many of whom arrived in Germany without any capital. To become entrepreneurs, all they need is "know-how" and some networking.

With this knowledge, we developed a six-month entrepreneurship program that will begin at the start of 2017. The program's goal is to help refugees along the path to self-sufficiency.

We hope that we will not only help refugees become responsible for their own incomes, but to also create positions for other Germans in the process.

I am convinced that politics alone will not be able to successfully facilitate integration. We must all tackle the problem together and do what we can to help.

We must help the people who have come here under adverse circumstances to become part of our society, whether it be as students, doctors, skilled workers or entrepreneurs.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.