Rima and her Syrian specialities.

How founding a company helped her to start believing in herself again.

Rima fled from Syria to Switzerland with her family in 2015. For a long time, she toyed with the idea of setting up a catering company. With the help of Capacity, she took the plunge into self-employment. She dreams of having her own restaurant.

Rima, you were born in Ukraine and grew up in Syria. You now live in Switzerland. Which country feels like home to you?

Every country has a special place in my heart. But to this day, I haven’t really felt like I belong anywhere. I think that’s because I adapt very quickly to new places. I’m kind of a chameleon.

What do these three countries have in common?

I feel like Ukraine is a combination of Syria and Switzerland. It has the simplicity and poverty of Syria as well as the sophistication and practicality of Switzerland.

If you hadn’t been forced to flee, what would you be doing in Syria now?

I studied French literature. I also have a degree in cinematography. During my studies, I learnt the basics of how to record and play back films. So basically the technology, science and art of film. If I had stayed in Syria, I would’ve continued to work as a photographer for Emirates Television.

You started your own company in 2023: Syrian Nights. What does your company do exactly?

Syrian Nights is a catering business that specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine. We make our signature dishes for parties and events.

How would you describe your Syrian specialities in three words?

Hearty. Fresh. A sensory explosion.

What’s the best feedback you’ve had from a customer so far?

A lady told me that I’d made her day with my food. She tasted my food and it made her really happy.

What was the process of founding your company like?

It took a very long time to get the business on its feet. The idea for Syrian Nights came to me five years ago. But I had no idea how or where to even start. Capacity’s support in setting up my company was an absolute godsend. The best experience ever. A volunteer from Generali Switzerland also helped me with the process. He gave me a lot of good advice and helped me with all the calculations for my project. It was all very easy and straightforward. I’m so grateful for that.

Where do you hope to be with your company in the next three years?

My dream has always been to serve my dishes in my own restaurant. I want to create a warm little place that’s nice and cosy, where people can get together and experience and enjoy my food.

You’ve taken part in Capacity’s Entrepreneurship Programme. How did Capacity support you in founding Syrian Nights?

As I said, I’d been toying with the idea of setting up my own catering company for a long time. Capacity has accompanied and encouraged me on this journey. During the Entrepreneurship Programme, I was given a lot of useful, vital information to start my passion project. I also had the opportunity to serve my food to a wide audience at several Capacity events. The visitors there could try my food, which meant I gained more customers.

If a refugee were to ask you why they should work with Capacity, what are the main three reasons you’d give them?

For starters, the people in charge at Capacity provide amazing support. They always encourage you to believe in yourself and your dreams. The second reason is that they help you with all aspects of realising your plans. Not just setting up your company, but also on a personal level. And lastly, their generosity is unconditional.

Our foundation The Human Safety Net relies on people helping other people. How important is that human safety net for you?

Having a network of people is very important to me. It’s a free and more honest alternative to traditional advertising. And the success of Syrian Nights proves that having a network like this really works. Because even though I don’t do any traditional advertising, I have plenty of customers. I’ve also benefited from the network I was able to build up through Capacity. It’s meant I get cater for their corporate partners, such as Generali Switzerland.

How has founding Syrian Nights changed your life?

Founding Syrian Nights has helped me become financially independent. I’m not dependent on social welfare. And something that’s very important for me personally, apart from the financial aspect, is that setting up my own company helped me to start believing in myself again.

Are there other people from your circle involved in Syrian Nights?

My whole family helps me at Syrian Nights. My husband works in the kitchen with me and helps me prepare the dishes. And my two daughters, Malina who’s 17 and Mila who’s 12, help me out with all kinds of things too, like setting up the buffet table or tidying up in the kitchen.

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?

I hope that I can provide security for my family and that we can make Switzerland our home. And maybe one day my dream of having my own little restaurant will come true.



Participant Entrepreneurship Programme

Rima has been living in Switzerland with her family since 2015. She founded Syrian Nights, a catering company specialising in Middle Eastern cuisine. She dreams of one day delighting guests with her dishes in her own small restaurant.
Partnership: Capacity

Our partner Capacity brings locals and newcomers together with a focus on collaborative skill-sharing at its centre.  Capacity's Talent and Start-up Incubator runs an Entrepreneurship and an Access programme, both of which are aimed at people with a refugee or migrant background in Switzerland.