The Dream Factory is a social enterprise, founded by former refugee Omar Munie, that helps people reenter the work force by training them to become craftsmen. Helping others to realize their dreams energizes Omar more than anything. What’s more, his products reflect a mix of creativity and the drive to make the world a better place.
“When I founded the Dream Factory, 700,000 people in the Netherlands were without a job. At the same time, craftsmanship was at risk of disappearing from the country. I don’t want to mass produce in China, but prefer to make Dutch quality products and to safeguard the knowledge of how to craft handbags,” Omar explains what he perceives to be a win-win situation.
Omar fled from civil war in Somalia and arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee at the age of 9. He went on to follow his dream to become a handbag designer. Today, most of his peers can only dream of his success. He has a flagship store at The Hague’s Noordeinde. Women like Queen Maxima and Hillary Clinton use his bags. “I arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee and had the chance to build my life the way I wanted to. I want to give others the same opportunity,” Omar explains.
Trainees at the Dream Factory have to demonstrate discipline and perseverance. But above all, they have to have a dream. “I don’t ask people for their resumes, but I do ask them about their dreams,” Omar explains. “Everybody at the Dream Factory works from their hearts. They are given a chance to make their dreams come true and they seize the opportunity.”
From old chair to new bag
The products manufactured at the Dream Factory are made from recycled materials. Old KLM uniforms and discarded airport chairs are turned into handbags. Old ties from The Hague’s public transportation staff get a new life by way of the bags’ lining. “To work with these used materials as a designer is a creative challenge. But for me it’s an important way to contribute to a better environment.”
Embracing diversity at the Dream Factory
This mix of creativity and the drive to make the world a better place is reflected by another beautiful product that is made in the Dream Factory, the Embracelet. They are bracelets made from life vests worn by refugees on their boat journey to Greece.
Omar was once a boat refugee himself. When he fled from Somalia with his family, they didn’t have any life vests. “We traveled on a boat for 100 people, but we were at least 300. People died on board. Only the lucky ones survived,” he says. “With the Embracelets, I want to raise awareness about the added value of diversity in society. I hope they encourage support for refugees.”
Running a social enterprise gives Omar the feeling that a commercial enterprise doesn’t provide. “I get a lot of energy from working with the people at the Dream Factory. Helping others to realize their dreams and making the world a bit more beautiful is so inspiring.”
For more information about the Embracelets, have a look at Omar’s website. The profit that is generated by the Embracelets goes towards refugee projects on the Greek island of Lesbos and the Dutch Tulip Foundation that provides cultural orientation classes to refugees in the Netherlands.
Photo credits: Virendya Battja