Maria Gorskikh (Questrom’23) Wins BU Refugee Challenge

The Questrom community is so proud to announce Maria Gorskikh (Questrom’23), has won the Boston University Refugee Challenge, with her brainchild DREAM Venture Labs, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering refugees and immigrants in starting and growing their own businesses. The unique approach involves pairing Immigrant Entrepreneurs with student-volunteers who speak their native language, effectively breaking down language barriers.

Maria says, “Our student-consultants also offer comprehensive support in various areas including legal formation, marketing, branding, accounting, strategy, operations and more! By working alongside our participants, our student-volunteers gain invaluable real-life business experience, while simultaneously contributing to a powerful social cause.”

We asked Maria to give us the nitty gritty details on the inspiration and how the organization will invest the $10,000.

How did you come up with the idea for DREAM venture Labs?

“As an immigrant myself, I know that many people in my community possess an entrepreneurial drive and aspire to establish their own businesses upon arriving in the US. However, I also noticed the glaring lack of resources available to this population in terms of entrepreneurial support. Starting a business in the US is challenging enough, but it becomes even more daunting when you are not fluent in English or familiar with the market, making it feel almost impossible. A couple of months ago I witnessed a couple of my parents’ friends struggling to start a business, so I decided to help them as much as I could. Fortunately, after completing Questrom CORE, I had gained a wealth of knowledge in understanding how to start a business and the logistics involved. Together with my Questrom friend, we developed a business strategy and branding materials for a small business, which proved to be a game-changer for the owner. This experience motivated me to establish an organization that harnesses the talent and foreign language ability of students to aid immigrants in jump-starting their businesses. Thus, DREAM Venture Labs was born!”

Do you have any memories from the competition that you would like to share?

“The Refugee Challenge was an incredible experience, particularly because it highlighted the extent to which others believed in my idea. It was the connections that I made and the students who reached out to me about the ways they can get involved that truly motivated me to pursue DREAM Venture Labs full-time after graduation.”

How will the $10,000 prize be invested?

Maria says the $10,000 prize will be invested towards the achievement of several major goals. “Our plan is to accept 20 businesses and more than 200 student-volunteers into our program by this summer. During the summer, we will be working to help develop and refine immigrant-founded ventures. Moving forward, in the fall, we aim to optimize our operations and work with even more immigrant-founded businesses to make a greater impact in Boston and beyond.”Maria gives some words of encouragement to the future contestants of the BU Refugee Challenge:  “Believe in what you are doing and be passionate about the issue that you are trying to solve!”

Maria says her experiences at Questrom have supported her success in building DREAM Venture Labs. “Throughout my journey of building DREAM Venture Labs and preparing for the competition, I received an abundance of support from the Questrom faculty and BUild Lab. In particular, my minor in entrepreneurship played a crucial role. One standout class was Ideas2Impact taught by Professor Ian Mashiter at Questrom School of Business. Through this class, I learned about the potential of entrepreneurship in addressing complex social issues, which motivated me to pursue entrepreneurship further. Another amazing class was Financing New Ventures taught by Professor Cornelia Newell, which taught me how to secure funding for my venture and evaluate investments in startups. I also want to acknowledge the BUild Lab, an Innovation Center at BU, and its faculty for their unwavering support in helping me bring DREAM to life. Overall, the Questrom curriculum and entrepreneurship minor equipped me with the necessary skills to become a social entrepreneur, and I am grateful for the guidance and support of the faculty who helped me along the way.”

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