Brenda Jolly Ajidiru shares her story after completing the incubator program

May 11 2021

Nicole Keating
Program Developer

We talked to Brenda in a recent interview and asked her all about her business, her entrepreneurship journey and her time at Forward Incubator. She told us all about the specifics of Afro hair and how she saw a business opportunity in a new country. She even gave some tips to aspiring entrepreneurs and shared some pearls of wisdom, all while holding a three-month-old baby!

Hi Brenda, it’s so nice to meet you! Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m Brenda, the founder of Natural Hair solutions by Brenda. It deals with Afro Hair, frizzy hair. People with that type of hair are originally African, Caribbean and mixed-race, so those are my main clients. I come from Uganda, I’ve been here (the Netherlands) for 2 and a half years. I had a beauty parlour in Uganda so I was still doing the same thing. I joined Forward Incubator in the Digital Entrepreneurship program then graduated to the Core Incubator.

Tell me a little bit about growing up in Uganda.
I grew up in Uganda, a small country in East Africa where it’s always summer! We have one season. People there are my colour or darker, I am actually on the lighter side. I did a Bachelors in Business Administration and I majored in accounting. I worked as an accountant for a couple of companies while having a beauty parlour. I am a mother of 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl.

Wow, so impressive you were able to do all that while raising 4 children. I heard you had your last baby during the Core Incubator program and already two days after he was born you were ready to jump back into action.
Yes, I wanted to move ahead. I needed to start this business up and the clients were coming in so I didn’t want to rest, I was on it!

So Impressive! Tell me a little bit about your experience in the Core Incubator.
I worked with a team of a team facilitator, two coaches and two student consultants. They were always by my side. They made the business part of them, they helped me grow it by thinking together. We also had workshops, we had guests come in and teach us about the business plan and pitches.

What was your favorite part of the Core?
A very good question! I liked the workshops so much! I was always the last to leave! I really loved the break-outs because this was where the real experience was. I was also always looking forward to our team meetings, our energy and the boosters.
It was a team of girl power mostly and Joris as our amazing facilitator, he was the energizer of the team, always mixing it up and bringing the agenda. Everyone could contribute, it was really relaxed and casual during the meetings. If I was feeding my baby I could just do it during the meeting, we were always free to do as we wished. We would not only talk about business but also about our personal life. It was real, we felt connected.
They were always there to help me with the pitch and the marketing.

Tell me a little bit about your business and how you came about starting it here in the Netherlands.
When I first came to the Netherlands I was staying in a small town and I tried to go get my hair done in a salon, because it was really growing a lot, and wasn’t easy to work with. I used to really enjoy spending time at the salon and I had employees who would be able to do my hair for me. In this small town though, I wasn’t able to find a place that would be able to do it for me, so I decided to do it myself.
Then I moved to Amsterdam and one day, in public transport a lady who had the same kind of Afro hair asked me who did my hair and if she could have the same. I told her that it was my work and she ended up being my first client. She asked me how much she should pay me and I didn’t know what to say! She was really satisfied with the result and after she left she sent me another client. And that client sent another client!
Covid was actually an advantage for my business because as salons were closed people didn’t know where to go and I was able to go to people’s homes with my mobile salon!

What are the specialties of Afro hair?
It’s really thick, frizzy hair and it’s really hard. The comb cannot pass through it easily. It’s doesn’t grow very long and breaks easily because it’s rigid. And the Dutch weather affects the hair quite a lot. Most of us get extensions to prevent it from damaging and to help it grow.

How did you go about experimenting with your business?
I always charged the participants a little fee, to let them know that this is a business. I am already a professional and I need them to trust me. If it’s for free people are unlikely to let you work on their hair for fear of it getting spoiled as it easily breaks.

What did you learn at Forward Incubator that you will keep with you in your business?
First and foremost I learned that I have to make records and I learned that you can have an idea but you really have to put it down to see that it is possible. With Forward I had many ideas but it was important to understand if it really worked. Another thing I learned is the importance of taking baby steps. With every business, you have to take baby steps. You can’t just plan something big and think it will work out. Taking these steps one by one towards your goal will help things work out.

Any advice that you would like to give to entrepreneurs wanting to start at Forward?
I advise them to have big ideas and ambitions but I also advise them to be flexible. No idea is too big, any idea can be moulded into something good. The point of the ideas is that it needs to be workable. The problem you are trying to solve with your business should not only be for you but also for other people. You need to show that you help more people than just yourself with the solution, because the businesses for the clients not just for you.

What are the next steps for Natural Hair Solutions by Brenda?
My business is progressing seriously, and my goal is to have multiple branches of NHS by Brenda not only in Amsterdam, and for the mobile salon to continue working. I would also love to have more male clients, as currently I have more female clients than female clients.

Any closing comments you would like to share?
There is no idea which cannot work. You have to believe in yourself because entrepreneurship is within. If you feel the drive to do something, it will take you far. You just have to be determined to do it. Along the way you might feel like ‘this idea is too big for me’ but really no idea is too big. It’s not about the money it’s about the skill and the idea. Then just take it step by step.

Ambition, drive & togetherness.
16 entrepreneurs pitch for an audience of 400+ at Forward Incubator’s 7th Demo Day.

April 9 2021

Caspar Wanders
Business Developer

A deserving winner is crowned!

On the 11th of March, Forward Incubator closed its 8th program with its largest Demo Day yet. In excess of 400 people saw sixteen entrepreneurs with a refugee background pitch their ideas – ranging from hip fashion and a barbershop to an app for people who want to sport together, and from a consultancy in the supply chain for gold to Syrian pancakes and Korean dumplings.

Following support during a 7 month period by Forward’s program team, professional coaches and university students, the sixteen entrepreneurs presented their ideas in front of potential customers, investors and partners. They enjoyed education in the areas of entrepreneurship, the Dutch professional context, digital skills and much more. Forward collaborated with partners such as Coca Cola, DLA Piper, Heineken, Essense, Simon-Kucher & Partners en KplusV.

On Thursday afternoon, a large audience gathered on Hubilo’s interactive platform. Multiple sessions were organised for different sectors, and entrepreneurs were able to ‘host’ their own networking-tables, so as to directly allow contact with interested parties. The audience was also able to get to know more about Forward’s organisation. After an introduction by co-founders Diederick van der Wijk and Laura Di Santolo, participants were free to navigate the platform and view pitches in four different sectors: starting with Advisory and Food,  and followed by Consumer Products and Tech. 


Nour, Adel, Hassan and Adam pitched their ideas in the Advisory sector. Thereafter there was a possibility for questions from moderator Caspar and from the interactive audience.

As he was introduced, Nour Charaf Eddin was already hopping about like Mohammed Ali in his hayday – ready for battle. Nour is the young, bright mind Next Marketing Opportunitree: a marketing agency that offers clear campagnes which also aim to help customers develop these independently in the future. Nour is looking for customers to support in their growth, with a focus on the medical sector (dentists, opticians and the like).

Environmental consultant and risk analyst Adel Regal stole our hearts by opening with a story of how he saved a dolphin family by advising a construction company building a harbour on the Red Sea. Adel’s company Eco-Marina offers flexible and individual solutions for water management and environmental assessments. Adel is looking for customers in the industrial sectors whom he can support in their resolve to make their activities more sustainable and efficient. 

The charismatic Hassan Dirisu then presented Kakanda, his consultancy with which he will improve the supply chain for gold. Kakanda increases the transparency of an often shady supply chain through certification and direct contact with artisanal miners in Nigeria. This improves working conditions and leads to a more sustainable sector and a cost efficient supply chain, in which the artisanal miner is able to hold onto a larger share of the pie. Hassan is looking for partners in Fairtrade and ICT (for the use of blockchain) and customers in jewellery and tech-sectors.

This sector was closed by Adam Hamwi, who saw the need for a comprehensive educational platform for newcomers in the Netherlands from his own personal experience. The Wafy-platform is building bridges between cultures by allowing newcomers to shape their own integration in a community with other students. Adam is looking for certified trainers to teach on his platform and for sponsors to help both financially and to offer support for his initiative – such as municipalities and Vluchtelingenwerk.



In Food, moderator Vincent received the founders of four startups with innovative ideas in the food and beverage sector: Tasar, Muhammad, Yevgeniy and Alex, and Abdulkader.

Muhammad Husein opened with a presentation of his Chefs Factory, which delivers authentic and delicious Syrian meal boxes to your doorstep. Customers can thus easily and happily prepare meals at home, following the colourful video instructions and enjoying a tailored musical playlist. Muhammad recently featured in an article by the Haarlems Dagblad! He is looking for an investment of €15.000 and partners with experience and a network in the food sector. 

The charming Abdulkader Aljundi presented his concept Share Café, a coffee shop with a focus on cultural exchange. Abdulkader believes multicultural diversity colours life. His cafe in Almere offers international drinks and snacks which are prepared in traditional ways and by newcomers to the Netherlands. Abdulkader has started a crowdfunding campaign and is looking for an investment of €50.000.

This was followed by the unique founding couple of Alexandr Sagadiyev and John Tyo, who want to spread the secrets of the Korean kitchen in The Netherlands. They make steamed rolls with a large variety of meat and vegetable fillings. Tests with over 30 customers show that the tasty Pigodi are quite popular among customers in The Netherlands. Alex and John were recently profiled by the Eindhovens Dagblad. They are looking for an investment of €18.000 and want to be in touch with event organisers and horeca to spread the delicious Pigodi as widely as possible!

Finally, Tasar Isskreah pitched her startup selling the batter and ingredients for Syrian fatayer-pancakes in a unique mealbox. What started as an experiment to make tasty, sugar-free snacks for her diabetic sons, has become Tasarfatayer – a startup with quite a few customers and all over Dutch media (e.g. NOSNHTVNoordhollands Dagblad). The recipes are simple and delicious, and her sparkling personality make for a great combination. To launch her company, Tasar is looking for an investment of €20.000 and access to a network in health care. delicious Pigodi as widely as possible!


In Tech, moderator Nik received entrepreneurs Midyan, Nour, Burhan and Mohammed who all pitched their ideas and answered questions from the audience in turn.

Midyan Ulbaki presented Sawasport, connecting people who want to sport together while making a connection with someone with a different background. If you’re tired of solo-runs in the Vondelpark or of looking for a goalkeeper every week, Sawasport is a godsend! Midyan is looking for people who want to participate: simply register on his website

If you’re tired of solo-runs in the Vondelpark or of looking for a goalkeeper every week, Sawasport is a godsend!

Nour Alein Bahbouh pitched Genie, a new concept that makes online shopping easier and a lot cheaper. Genie tracks the prices of certain brands and of specific clothing items, so customers can buy these at the best price possible. Genie grants your wishes! Nour is ambitious and continuously looking for improvements to the concept. Genie is a social app, where you can talk to other customers about the product. Nour is looking for an investment of €20.000 for the development of the app and for marketing. 

Mohammed El Nemr developed HomeFit, a platform which connects home sporters to trainers. Now gyms are closed, during the pandemic, many people have had to change their sporting habits. HomeFit offers a solution. This platform connects home sporters to certified trainers (and, importantly, vice versa!) so they can participate in classes and take private training from the comfort of their living rooms. Mohammed is looking for people with expertise and a network in fitness and digital marketing. Trainers and home sporters are of course also welcome!

This sector was closed by the charismatic Burhan Kocabiyik, a talented entrepreneur with a beautiful app, ARspar, which improves the online shopping experience through Augmented Reality and 3D-technologies. ARspar has developed a plug-in for Shopify and other paying webshops, which make shopping a lot easier and more attractive. Use ARspar to have a look at how that coveted watch looks around your wrist or that fridge in your kitchen. Burhan is looking for customers: e-commerce companies with their own webshops!


Consumer Products

In this sector full of rockstars, Brenda, Khaled, Lara and Famil joined moderators Leah and Joris to pitch their ideas to an enthusiastic audience.

Firstly, straight from the Scottish Highlands, Lara Alsayed introduced her clothing brand Minifootprint. Lara manages to combine her craftsmanship and Syrian traditions with the beautiful garments and patterns of Scotland to make unique clothing. Lara upcycles unused fabrics into high quality products of wool and cashmere, so as to combat waste. Lara is looking for customers and people with a network in fashion – especially in the United Kingdom.

Khaled Alyami presented Noori Dates, that wants to disrupt the Dutch market for dates. This sweet and nutritious fruit is currently not receiving the appreciation it enjoys in the Middle East, and this is because it is often of dubious quality due to the poor harvesting and supply-practices. Khaled will provide the necessary change by collaborating with a successful supplier and a local NGO. Khaled was featured in an article by the Bloemendaals Nieuwsblad. Noori Dates is looking for web- and graphic designers who could help with the development of a webshop and for logistical experts that can advise Khaled about import and trade.

The flegmatic Famil Zamanli pitched his cool clothing brand kauseffekt, which brings the style of Milanese fashion houses to the clubs of Tbilisi and vice versa. Famil offers limited designer collections of upcycled clothing fabrics to young, environmentally conscious people. For a special, compelling experience, I encourage everyone to visit his website. Famil is looking for production studios and suppliers of upcycled garments.

The Demo Day was closed by the eventual winner, Brenda Jolly Ajidiru. Her mobile hair salon Natural Hair Solutions by Brenda celebrates the beauty of afro-natural hair. Brenda knows all about the power and challenges of natural hair, because of her experience as a hairdresser and owner of a beauty parlor in Uganda. Brenda offers healthy and attractive solutions for both men and women. She is looking for customers and people that can connect her to their network in cosmetics and the right equipment. 


Following the closing pitches, interested parties were able to network with the entrepreneurs, ask questions and connect. Each entrepreneur had her own table in the Hubilo-lounge available for interaction. Entrepreneurs made deals and valuable connections. This Demo Day was a great success, which was crowned by the announcement of the winners of the public vote in each sector: respectively Adam, Abdulkader, Burhan and Brenda. In the end, it was Brenda who could take home a money prize of 1000 euros and the honours as the winner of the 7th Forward Incubator Demo Day. She celebrated this with her newborn baby on the shoulder and the others in the cohort, who congratulated and wished each other the best of luck.

Brenda celebrated her victory with her newborn baby on the shoulder and the others in the cohort, who congratulated and wished each other the best of luck.

Finally, Forward Incubator said its goodbyes to two top team members in Antonio Alvarez Araya, Program Director, and Vincent van Heese, Team Facilitator. We thank them for their efforts and magnificent contributions as team members at Forward. They will of course remain part of the family, and we wish them a great future. 

Follow our star-entrepreneurs, subscribe to our newsletters for future events and collaborations, and we look forward to seeing you at future events – such as our 8th Demo Day in July!

Opportunity in Adversity


February 5 2021

Caspar Wanders
Business Developer

Forward Incubator’s International Investor Pitch Competition:
Entrepreneurs across the Middle East pitch innovative solutions to pressing problems in tourism, entertainment and retail.


The inaugural International Investor Pitch Competition organised by Forward Incubator saw five startups based in the Middle East pitch to a crowd of investors and battle it out for a cash prize of 5000 euros. The event was coloured by an expert panel of founders and an engaged audience of international investors, who have since reached out to all five entrepreneurs for further talks.

The entrepreneurs excited the audience as they all operate in sectors with a particular need for innovation, with tourism, education and retail all shaken up by the global pandemic. MahaHeba and Shaima have bundled their creative powers as Voyage brings the beauty of its native Egypt to people stuck at home, thus, breaching the oppressive boredom wreaked by a global pandemic. Likewise, Mohamed of Negmstar and Ahmed and Islam of Pigeon Parcel saw opportunity in the changed circumstances, respectively developing a fun educational app for homebound children and an app facilitating international deliveries. Add to this Abdullah and Sara’s smart accounting app Cashier and Salah’s graphic design platform Vexls which both support SMEs in the Middle East, and you’ve got yourself a bright bunch of exciting entrepreneurs brimming with solutions to everyday challenges! 

The entrepreneurs pitched their ideas live to a crowd of over 100 people, including an expert panel of Spark-CEO Yannick du PontHiber co-founder Ernst Peter Hovinga and the founder of Start Ups Without BordersValentina Primo. Mohamed’s NegmStar, won a cash prize of 5000 euros awarded by the jury, and Cashier-founders Abdullah and Sara were the winners of the hearts, as they won the popular vote by a small margin.



The event was opened by Mygrants’ own Christian Richmond Nzi who had inspirational words for the entrepreneurs and attendees with migrant backgrounds and for the investors rearing to have an impact. Mygrants provides access for migrants to fundamental information and training programmes, so as to open up “opportunity in adversity” highlighting the skills and talents of migrants, to match them with the most suitable jobs in the market. Christian spoke of how investment, a tenacious drive and healthy team dynamics helped his dream become a reality.

Forward Incubator founders Laura Di Santolo and Diederick van der Wijk then introduced FI with a short presentation on its mission and ways of working. Following these opening remarks, it was time for the entrepreneurs to, one by one, present their pitch and answer questions by the jury live!

Entrepreneur Pitches

Salah El-Din Mohamed started the round of pitches off by pitching Vexls – an easy-to-use platform for graphic designers based in the Arabic world. Vexls takes into account local design aesthetics, and offers creative designs and accessible templates for all. Salah illustrated the current state of Arabic advertisement, by showing a food salesman advertising with a rather graphic display of raw meats on a flyer. With a few simple yet effective interventions, which Salah cooked up for us live on stage, Vexls is able to offer him an attractive campaign that appeals to his target customers and beyond!

Next up was the energetic Maha Fawzy who presented Voyage, an app she has developed with co-founders Heba Hatem and Shaima Foaud. Voyage offers exciting travel tours to international tourists, and has even developed covid-proof video tours of Egypt, a country steeped in history and with amazing cultural highlights – often unknown not only to the wider world but also to its own citizens. Their app opens up tourism in these constricted times, but also to people unable to travel due to other limitations. With the ambient sound of Cairo adding colour to her presentation, Maha presented unperturbed and excitedly.

Ahmed Farrag then presented Pigeon Parcel, an application that connects shoppers to international travels to deliver goods in a cheap, fast and assured way. Pigeon Parcel … . 

The app enables Omar, an Egyptian “tech-freak”, to get the newest smartphone delivered from the UAE days after the release date and Hassan in Cairo to send his sister in the UAE her university transcripts in a secure way. 

Syrian entrepreneur Abdullah Oso and his partner Sara have developed a mobile application which helps small shop owners to manage their accounts in a smart and efficient manner. With Cashier’s app, SMEs have no need for an expensive accountant or complicated accounting software. Cashier manages your cash flow readily and provides the store owner with access to constantly updated information about their financial status. Moreover, the app includes a handy barcode-scanner and enables easy tax declarations. 

Finally, Mohamed Negm pitched his start-up Negmstar with the help of his two young children, Ammar and Aynaa. Like millions of children, they were unable to go to school, had to stay at home and their learning was a great concern to their parents. This was worsened by the lack of access to electronic devices and fun ways to learn new things. Mohamed did not sit idle and took it upon himself to develop educational animations and games for his children’s homeschooling. Negmstar offers fun ways to learn skills such as writing, reading, math, coding and even applied physics. There are six games now on the market with over 13,000 downloads. With the right investment, Mohamed hopes to reach 10 million downloads in the first 3 years by improving software, hardware and Negmstar’s marketing efforts. 

Thank you to all participants!

Tense Deliberations & Awards

Following the presentations, the jury convened to debate and pull hairs, assessing the merit of all five pitches. We hear tensions rose and tempers flared, as it was a close call with all startups being well represented and offering innovative solutions to pressing problems. Meanwhile, two other FI-entrepreneurs, namely Burhan Kocabiyik of ARSpar and Spermly-founders Zaher Bahar and Abdulrahman Baki, presented their pitches to an engaged audience, who also expressed their preferences in a public vote for their favourite pitch.

As the jury rejoined the plenary session, Cashier was declared the popular winner of the evening, and a delighted Abdullah and his co-founder Sarah proudly accepted the award. A drum roll for the main prize of the night followed. When Valentina Primo announced the winner on behalf of the jury, a household in Turkey erupted in joy, with Negmstar’s founder Mohamed tearfully accepting the prize and dedicating his victory to the “women in his life” and his supportive family. This crowned a night of creativity, buzz and salesmanship, as new connections were made and supporting entrepreneurship in the Middle East became a focal point of Forward Incubator’s organisational mission! Excited things lay ahead!
Please stay tuned…

Money Moves Forward 2.0


January 15 2021

Caspar Wanders
Business Developer

Money Moves Forward: innovative entrepreneurs pitch to investors
to look forward and beyond a refugee-past

In December, Forward Incubator and ABN AMRO organised the second edition of #MoneyMovesForward. Six founders pitched to a crowd of investors from the bank’s community. From Computer Aided Sperm Selection to sensory devices for Paralympic sports, all six entrepreneurs offer innovative solutions, and with the right support they are ready to make a real difference!

Preparations for the event had started early, as entrepreneurs were readied with the help of Pitch Coach Orfeuo Lionor for the event. What’s more, facilitating such an event for close to 200 people, from Delft to Damascus and from Breda to Beirut, proved to be a logistical challenge. FI and ABNA presented from four different locations, had entrepreneurs joining live from Istanbul, and received four entrepreneurs at CIC Rotterdam. As we rejoiced in seeing each other and meeting entrepreneurs for the first time, we worked hard to offer a smooth and exciting event for everyone tuning in – while paying heed to the corona-restrictions! Two colleagues received entrepreneurs and escorted them to separate offices for recording, Q&A and a Green Room for relaxation and mingling.

The event was opened by ABN Amro’s Hugo Westerink, the head of informal investments-team, and Nazha Rustom, D&I-consultant at the bank, and Forward Incubator founders Laura di Santolo and Diederick van der Wijk. We were then joined live by the entrepreneurs. One by one, each presented his pitch and answered questions live from the audience.

Muhammad Hussein || ChefsFactory

First off: charismatic Muhammad presented his “the next generation of food experiences”. Chefs Factory answers a problem we are all too familiar with: “During the pandemic, we can’t enjoy life like we used to, people are stuck in monotony and there is a lack of experiences to get into a good mood”! Chefs Factory brings the restaurant into your kitchen and offers an experience for your senses – serving authentic Middle-Eastern meal kits and curated musical soundtracks straight to your kitchen.

Vladimir Bogomolov || Frood

Recent FI-graduate Vladimir then presented Frood, an application which helps people with food restrictions during their daily shop. After extensive customer research, Frood found that customers’ issues meant that they “are forced to check every unknown product and read every label. Manually. In the 21st century!” Together with his co-founder Aleksandr Smirnov, Vladimir has developed an MVP: a chat bot to safeguard a gluten- and lactose-free diet: “Everyone can send a picture of the label via Whatsapp, and the bot will immediately reply with the results: ‘Scan, eat, feel free!’”

Reshad Majidi || Unido

Unido-founder Reshad came in with a bang by showing an, especially painful for your correspondent, clip of a football match in which an Arsenal striker is sent off for playing after the whistle had sounded. This is an example which all too clearly shows how failing to hear something basic in a sports game can spoil it for many. Together with co-founder Manshor Ghorbanzadeh, Reshad has created wearable technology which sends real-time triggers for people with a hearing impairment to enjoy sport to the fullest! Unido can, thus, actually promote a FIFA-motto of providing “equal chance to play”!

Dr. Abdulrahman Baki and Zaher Ballar || Spermly

After a short break, we were joined by Spermly, an exciting startup calling in live from Istanbul! Abdulrahman and Zaher have developed an application which improves the success rate of IVF-treatment. Their easy-to-use mobile application offers a convenient method of analysing spermatozoid movement and quick, accurate results so parents-to-be and investors alike “invest in a fertile future”. With an innovative idea and a well-prepared presentation, Spermly garnered a lot of interest from the crowd and Abdulrahman and Zaher answered questions from investors at length.

Burhan Kocabiyik || ARspar

Lastly, 22-year old entrepreneur Burhan presented ARspar’s slick application that will disrupt the online shopping-market. ARspar has developed Augmented Reality technology which reinvents every online shopping experience. This AR-technology enhanced with an easy payment method, excites a large deal of those shoppers who currently drop out in the stale and unimaginative buying process. Burhan is a creative and a problem solver, as he makes clear in his motto: “Happy Customers, Happy Merchants”.

Following the five presentations, members of the audience joined entrepreneurs in break out rooms for some follow up questions and to discover where there might be opportunities for funding and partnering. We congratulate all entrepreneurs and are very happy with our warm and enthusiastic audience. New connections were made, seeds were planted and 7 investors have expressed concrete interest for follow-up talks. We trust that we will soon be able to inform you about next steps taken by our 5 exciting startups!

Congratulations Antonio on your
well-deserved promotion to
Program Director


October 13 2020

Antonio Alvarez Araya
Program Director

Hear from our new Program Director

My name is Antonio; I am originally from Costa Rica and I have been living in the Netherlands for a little over two years.

I first joined Forward Incubator in May 2019 as a volunteer to help entrepreneurs to prepare for their business pitches and wrap up their business plans. Since August 2019, I joined the Forward team as Program Manager which has been a great journey full of personal development, incredible people and rewarding work.
Now I am stepping into the role of Program Director where I will be leading the development and implementation of all Forward’s programs to support entrepreneurial education, startup development and business growth for newcomer entrepreneurs. I am extremely excited about this new challenge.

I would like to thank Diederick van der Wijk and Laura Di Santolo for the trust and faith they have in me to take on this position. And my amazing colleagues: Caspar WandersNikolaos KorovilasLeah BeckerVincent van Heese & Joris Amin who make me grow and let me have fun every day!
Please join me on empowering newcomers by turning their business ideas a reality and stay tuned for what is to come.

Are you a newcomer entrepreneur and ready to start your own business?
Go to

Do you want to help us support as many newcomers as possible in your country? Then please get in touch with us via

Today Forward Incubator launches its
Digital Entrepreneurship Program

September 1 2020

Laura Di Santolo
Program Director & Co-founder at Forward Incubator

Learn wherever you are at your convenience.
Forward brings entrepreneurial education to you.

79.5 million people in the world are displaced, of which 26 million are categorized as refugees. Some of these people have found new homes in their host countries, whereas many of them are still on the move. They have fled due to war, political activism, sexual orientation, or climate change. They carry stories and dreams and the continued hope to realise them.

Forward Incubator has had the privilege to support more than 100 newcomers with a refugee background in the Netherlands over the past 3 years. This underlines our conviction that newcomers have the power to succeed in their new countries and that they possess the ability to build bridges. They build bridges across cultures and with their home countries. They bring new perspectives that together with our Forward community have sparked great innovations such as Elanza,  Greenwheel TechDaffee and Mpowerment. They show us that diversity works.

Learn about Entrepreneurship & Business wherever you are with Forward Incubator

“In the Netherlands, we supported 46 entrepreneurs in launching their business so far, who together raised 1.1 million in investments. The on-going COVID crisis pushed us to continuously innovate and adapt our activities to an online format. We are positive that through today’s launch of our Digital Entrepreneurship Program, we now have the opportunity to bring our services to all newcomers wherever they are.”

Our goal is to make entrepreneurship education accessible to all 79.5 million displaced people worldwide and enable them to achieve economic independence and a strong sense of belonging in a new society.

Are you a newcomer entrepreneur and ready to start your own business? Go to

Do you want to help us support as many newcomers as possible in your country? Then please get in touch with us via

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