Recent Grad Launches Organization to Empower Refugees and Immigrants, Wins BU Refugee Challenge

in Global Matters
November 1st, 2023

Maria Gorskikh’s Nonprofit Helps Immigrant & Refugee Entrepreneurs Realize their Dreams

Maria Gorskikh (Questrom ’23), a recent graduate who majored in finance and hails from Russia, won the Boston University Refugee Challenge earlier this year with her non-profit organization DREAM Venture Labs. Gorskikh’s organization is dedicated to empowering refugees and immigrants in starting and growing their own businesses, and it serves as a connection between immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs and essential resources to boost their business ventures.

Gorskikh started DREAM Venture Labs to address the notable challenges faced by immigrants and refugees, such as language barriers, limited access to resources, and lack of professional networks in the U.S., even for those with prior business success abroad.

“Our organization carefully tackles these issues by providing practical resources and fostering a supportive community that understands and navigates the unique hurdles of starting a business in a new country,” Gorskikh explains.

The organization runs events and offers access to its partnership network as well as a targeted accelerator program, linking entrepreneurs with dedicated student volunteers and seasoned mentors. DREAM Venture Labs has a dynamic team of more than 300 student mentor volunteers, hailing from a range of Boston-based universities including BU, MIT, Harvard, BC, Tufts, Northeastern, and more.

“Our mentors’ dedication and skill breathe life into our mission, helping us create a powerful support network for the immigrant entrepreneurs under our wing,” Gorskikh says. “We thoughtfully pair entrepreneurs with student volunteers from similar cultural backgrounds and linguistic capabilities, ensuring that language barriers are minimized and connections are forged through shared cultural and linguistic understanding.”

Growing up in Russia and immigrating to the United States at age 17, Gorskikh has firsthand experience and understanding of the myriad issues many immigrants and refugees face. From a young age, she was engaged with liberal political movements, feminism, and sustainability movements in Russia, fostering an intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for social impact.

It comes with little surprise that Gorskikh is using her business and finance acumen to support others and to bridge the gap between ambition and realization. Winning the BU Refugee Challenge gave Gorskikh $10,000, which she says she has allocated to fortify DREAM Venture Lab’s foundational and operational facets. “This includes covering legal organization fees, recruiting adept students for mentoring, hosting in-person events, amplifying our visibility through marketing, providing support and appreciation for our interns and volunteers, and investing in software and fundraising endeavors to ensure sustainability and growth.”

Gorskikh credits Innovate@BU for being an indispensable ally in launching DREAM Venture Labs. “Their mentorship, pivotal advice, vital connections, and generous $10,000 grant from the Refugee Challenge not only provided financial support but also enriched our framework, enabling us to sculpt an impactful and sustainable organization. Their role was pivotal in translating our mission into actionable impact.”

As a recent graduate, Gorskikh is completely dedicated to her organization and is working to ensure sustainable growth of DREAM Venture labs. Long-term, her vision expands beyond Boston, as she aspires to assist hundreds of businesses nationally and grow DREAM Venture Labs’ network across the U.S.