Mursal Hedayat – Founder and CEO of Chatterbox
Mursal Hedayat is an award-winning entrepreneur with a unique story and motivation for creating her company Chatterbox. Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, she arrived in the UK as a refugee at the age of 3 with her mom, who was a civil engineer. As she grew up, she began to realize that her mother, who held an advanced university degree from Kabul University, was consistently unemployed or underemployed in her new home, and not being afford the opportunities that should have come easily with her experience and education. This eventually led Mursal to found Chatterbox as a way to provide talented refugees with employment opportunities. A key line for the company’s vision is “an enterprise created for refugees, by refugees”. This company is an example of “social entrepreneurship” and the founder’s aim is to both make a profitable business and to improve the lives of the refugees that are employed as language teachers by the company.
Chatterbox is an online language learning platform, primarily aimed at organizations but also available to universities and individuals. They provide personalized language coaching for that is tailored and customized for the specific needs of the learners in that organization. The select group of language experts are unique in that they are refugees themselves, and are applying their skills, knowledge in their native tongue to provide language learning services. In fact, the company currently supports 12 languages (Arabic, Bengali, French, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu), which may seem like a missed opportunity but it is actually by design, for the languages supported are directly related to the skillset of the small group of refugee language experts.
This founder and company resonated with me because they are trying to make it easier for refugees to integrate into their new communities, while also providing them with a living wage and a sense of pride. As a person of color who grew up in a low-income area of Toronto, I have known, worked with and became friends with numerous people who were children of refugees or even refugees themselves. Many of my friends had parents were put in positions where they had to take employment in service industries such as cab driving in order to make ends meet when the skills and education that they acquired in foreign countries was not recognized here in Canada. Chatterbox seems to be doing their small part in trying to change the refugee experience and to make it more positive, which is something that I can get behind.