Sisters in Business Helping Migrant Women in Norway


Sisters in Business Helping Migrant Women in Norway

Photography: Ingar Sørensen

SiB are social entrepreneurs who want to use their expertise, life experience and commitment to make a difference for and together with immigrant women.
We create and provide jobs and contribute to economic independence for the women through sale of services and products, in partnership with established businesses, volunteers, municipalities and private partners.
We provide the necessary qualification required within areas the individual has interest in, including training in Norwegian working culture and social knowledge, and individual guidance through mentoring.
Immigrant women have difficulties getting into the ordinary labour market for many reasons, they experience individual, structural and cultural barriers.
The founders of SiB have worked with career guidance for immigrant women since 2007, and the network counts

Sisters in Business (SiB) is a social entrepreneur who, through co-creation and innovation, creates jobs for and in cooperation with immigrant women. We meet around knowledge sharing, working life and social integration and are committed to unify, tolerance and respect for each other’s cultures and traditions. SiB was started as a social network, a meeting place for ethnic Norwegian and immigrant women. Sandra Tollefsen and Farzaneh Aghalo worked with integration of immigrant women in the labor market with an access provider where they realized that the target group was little integrated into Norwegian society and there was a lack of integration arenas. Therefore, resourceful and socially aware Norwegian born and women of immigrant background gathered monthly meetings where they raised topics and exchanged information and experiences about conditions that occupy immigrant women.
Through the network, research reports and own experience, we know in SiB that there is a lot to prevent immigrant women’s entry into the labor market. Many people lack education and / or professional experience, both from Norway and their homeland, many have weak Norwegian skills, they are completely outside the labor market and often have home-based obligations that make it difficult to work in ordinary working life. At least in the start-up phase. Furthermore, skepticism and lack of knowledge about integration with employers are an obstacle. Many businesses open doors, but few are willing to invest what is needed for an employee to become independent and earns her salary. Traditional instruments for integration in the labor market have been shown to have no desired effect. The result is the exclusion of a large group of people, which has many unfortunate sides not only for women, but also for their families and for society as a whole.

As a consequence, the network was formalized in an enterprise aimed at creating jobs for women, workforce within the nails, cooking and service for immigrant women, as well as established actors and industry, where they can use their skills and get the necessary qualifications at need. Workplaces can be permanent or as a springboard for a permanent workplace connection in other parts of the labor market.

Follow-up takes place in the form of structured sponsorship and mentoring schemes as long as necessary. The women get paid for all the work they do. SiB also helps those who want to start their own business where they can get assignments for SiB, as well as having their own products and projects. The goal is for SiB to be a profitable business that carries its own costs, a business characterized by security, predictability and sustainability. All profits will return to the business for increased working hours, new appointments and necessary investments. SiB are inspired by the model of Yallatrappan in Sweden, a social entrepreneur who currently employs many immigrant women in a number of areas: catering, sewing studio, home services, conference and shop. They also run training and work training in cooperation with various actors. The entrepreneur of Yallatrappan, Christina Merker-Siesjö, was named the businesswoman of the year in 2017 by Business and Professional Women in Sweden.



SiB is based on volunteering. The board and the resource group in the network continuously shut down a large number of hours in the business in the following activities:
• Sunday with SiB – monthly collection with the entire network. The board and resource group organizes the collection of themes, lectures, discussions, food and drink.
• Funding scheme – Immigrant women receive an offer for a sponsor / mentor who assists with practical and other matters, especially related to employment participation.
• Young sisters – a subgroup aimed at the youngest immigrant women
• Creation of jobs like SiB Norsk Design
• Implementation of projects
• Builds networks

SiB Syservice

In October 2017 we opened our studio at IKEA Slependen. Customers can order what they want to be sewn from IKEA’s furniture store and get help with setting up curtains. The work is carried out by immigrant women in the local population, who have received training and qualifications at SiB. The studio is a result of a brand new partnership between IKEA, Sisters in Business and NAV Asker (The local authorities and central government.
The cooperation we have with IKEA will enable the women who work here to reach IKEA’s customers and become part of a college consisting of IKEA’s 500 employees at Slependen.
An innovative collaboration. IKEA has created a separate area for Sisters in Business in the store in the warehouse where the orders are placed. The goal is that more women will be employed during the first year and that the project can be established as a permanent business in the long run. All income from IKEA Sleping’s sister service goes to Sisters in Business. Globally, IKEA collaborates with various social entrepreneurs, all in order to strengthen women’s position in society. The goal of IKEA Norway is to establish such cooperation in several warehouses. IKEA Slependen’s cooperation with social entrepreneur, Sisters in Business, is the first in Norway.

The cooperation we have with IKEA will enable the women who work here to reach IKEA’s customers and become part of a college consisting of IKEA’s 500 employees at Slependen.
An innovative collaboration

“IKEA wants to contribute to social change by creating portable jobs in the society we are a part of. We have good experience working with actors in our local area, this is also our employees are very committed. Now we look forward to provide our customers with a service they require while helping to hire immigrant women in our society, “says Clare Rodgers in IKEA Norway


SiB Norsk Design

We have established Sib Norsk Design, a design studio in Oslo city center. The studio will be the workplace and meeting place for designers, tailors and alterations. Designers can rent a workplace and they can sew their models the same place. The tailors sew for the designers, but also want to sew for others, make redesign and other products that maintain high quality standards. Norwegian fashion industry manufactures mainly in Eastern Europe and China today, which is reasonable but challenging, especially when it comes to quality. As a result, Sisters in Business has several established and reputable designers in the network that will be building up and having the studio as its workplace.
Production abroad causes handcrafting skills to disappear. Many immigrant women have seam skills, formal and casual, as they wish to use professionally. It is a competence that is little in demand in the ordinary labor market but still a competence demanded by consumers. Sib Norsk Design will work by model of similar design companies in London, Paris and New York, among other designers in our network for long periods of time.
The goal is to create an environment that attracts the fashion industry. There will also be an arena for training, knowledge sharing, integration, lectures and workshops.
Many have family or social obligations that, at least in periods of life, they do not have the opportunity to work full time or within normal working hours. In Sib Norsk Design there will be an opportunity to adapt as well as working hours as a workplace.
The project is a cultural, artistic and integral measure that combines high professional knowledge and knowledge sharing in textile and nails, creating jobs for a target group that is marginalized in the labor market.

In order to ensure high quality of the products, we want to ensure that sewers and tailors have the necessary and formalized skills to deliver high quality products. Tine Solheim, one of Norway’s most talented and most renowned designers, and judge in the “Symesterskapet” (Norwegian sew championship), teaches everything from courses in specific stitching techniques to full training courses resulting in professional letters.
The designer Kjell Nordstrøm is attached as a mentor and catalyst for SiB Norsk Design. In the 1980s and 90s he operated his own clothing brand with shops in Paris, London and St. Tropez and thus has in-depth knowledge and experience with projects like this. In Norway he became known as Baron von Bulldog, who launched several controversial collections around the millennium. He is a widely used costume designer in Norwegian film, with responsibility for, among other things, for several of the most frequently mentioned Norwegian produced movies. In August this year, SiB arranged a collection of the Black Rose design, designed by Kjell, a version of the classic “little black”. The show was included in the program for Oslo Runway, the Norwegian fashion industry’s biggest annual event. The collection will now be further developed and will be introduced to the market these days.

With Kjell in the team we have a network of designers who want to use the workshop. He will also be able to create several types of Black Rose events that draw a wide audience.
Sib Norsk Design will be an affordable and good offer for young graduates designers and talents to get an arena where they can design, develop and produce in an environment of many of the best in Norway in the field. The designer Nina Skarra is also affiliated with SiB. She advises on fashion design. She is the first Scandinavian fashion designer who has been invited to the New York Fashion Week. She has shown there twice, had dresses on red carpets under Oscar, Globe Awards, Cannes Film Festival and more. Nina works closely with Telespinn, a small, eco-friendly spinning shop with shop sales in Telemark, which produces own yarn and receives fiber for rental spinning. Telespinn recruits its employees from asylum reception.