Meet the Members: Hussein, a Syrian Dessert Chef Growing a New Business in Turkey


Name: Hussein
Business: Kunefe Shop
LIFE Cohort: 2nd Cohort, Mersin
Home Country: Syria

It was a passion for food that drove Hussein to make a career change from hospitality to starting his own business in Syria as a dessert chef. He quickly found success as an entrepreneur and turned one dessert shop into four. However, after the conflict in Syria began, Hussein was forced to migrate to Mersin and leave his booming businesses behind. 

When Hussein first arrived in Turkey, he lacked the resources and capital to open a new shop at the scale of the businesses he left behind in Syria but was able to afford a small space in the entrance of a building. In the next several years, he grew that small space into a thriving dessert store and even expanded to the upper floor of the building. 

When a friend sent Hussein the advertisement for the LIFE Project, he thought the program could at least help him formally register his business. But his most valuable experience with the LIFE Project was not what he expected. “It turned out to be more for personal development,” Hussein said, “The thing I benefited from the most was how to promote my product…measuring the satisfaction of the customer, and what makes me different from my competitors.” The LIFE Project’s incubation period even helped Hussein develop a new business idea – to start making cold kunefe!

After working to establish himself again as a successful entrepreneur in a different country, Hussein remembers winning the LIFE Project Business Pitch Competition as being one of the happiest days since his graduation day back in Syria. For Hussein, “it was not about the money, it was about the joy of success and proving [myself] as a refugee who was able to make something happen in a country which was not [mine].”

Shortly after becoming a member of the LIFE Project, Hussein was able to formally register his business and is now in the process of renovating his shop. He is also working towards opening another branch in a different area to keep up with customer demand and find a reliable market for his specialty kunefe. Now, when his friends ask him if they should start their own businesses, Hussein tells them his story and encourages them to keep trying because “from one door, a hundred doors open to you.”

Interested in Hussein’s business? Connect with him on Instagram: @elfatihkunafa