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The Founder and Founding of DREAM Venture Labs

Two weeks before Boston University’s Refugee Challenge, Maria Gorskikh began to pitch DREAM Venture Labs to her classmates at Questrom School of Business. By the time the challenge came around, Gorskikh had over one hundred student volunteers and the elementary structure of her nonprofit organization, DREAM Venture Labs. In the end, Gorskikh won the competition.

At first, being a student at Boston University, Gorskikh began helping her immigrant and refugee friends with establishing and growing their businesses by helping them with design, finding target audiences, and doing research.

“I began helping family friends who were refugees and new immigrants with their businesses. Starting a business in a new country is tough due to language barriers and limited resources. So, I introduced these entrepreneurs to my college friends. Gradually, I built a network of business owners I worked with, and my friends also pitched in because they genuinely wanted to help. We started with basic tasks like research, design, and marketing, but it made a significant difference for the business owners.”

When Gorskikh heard about the Changemaker Refugee Challenge at BU, an idea sparked.

“I essentially transformed my side activities into a structured organization with clear rules and guidelines," Gorskikh said.

Just as Gorskikh’s friends would help on specific project tasks, volunteers would consult immigrant business owners in their field of expertise. These student-consultants would communicate their advice and projects through a “Project Manager,” the role that Gorskikh played in her work that led to DREAM Venture Labs.

Part of DREAM Venture Labs success is that volunteers are not hard to find. Gorskikh spoke with all of the volunteers, whether they approached her after class or applied through LinkedIn.

“Many students have chosen to volunteer because they are passionate about our mission and understand its importance.” Gorskikh said.

Another reason for DREAM Ventures Lab’s victory at the Changemaker Refugee Challenge was its “scalability.” Although the Challenge focused on improving the lives of “refugees and immigrants in the Greater Boston area,” DREAM Venture Labs can expand to a national level.

DREAM Venture Labs stands apart from other organizations by empowering refugees, providing them with the means to be self-sufficient and actively contribute to their communities. "By arming them with the necessary resources to pursue their aspirations, we aim to create a lasting impact on both individual lives and community development."

Moreover, although volunteering positions are unpaid, they can give students entrepreneurial and business experience in the field of their choice.

“Acquiring experience for one's future career is super important. However, limited job opportunities, particularly in niche fields, often pose a challenge. The vision behind DREAM Venture Labs is to create an ideal platform for student volunteers, offering them precisely the opportunities they seek.” As Gorskikh emphasized, “our aim is to make DREAM Venture Labs the perfect place where students can pursue their desired roles and gain invaluable experience.”

After graduating from Boston University in May, Gorskikh chose to work for DREAM Venture Labs full-time despite the uncertainties and challenges that come with starting a unique nonprofit.

“When I graduated in May, I thought, ‘we really have to make it work.’ Because there are so many people who depend on it,” Gorskikh said.

The young executive director plans to expand DREAM Venture Labs to New York (N.Y.) — the city with the most migrants and refugees in the US — next.

Those who want to support or become involved in DREAM Venture Labs can find more information on the website or attend the nonprofit’s upcoming Fundraising Gala on Sept. 16th.

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