• Basak Nur Yirmibesoglu | Communications Consultant

Sometimes, the obstacles one faces in life can be transformed into stepping stones to success. This is evident in the story of Mahmut, a 57-year-old pharmacist and the founder of Dam Medikal in Mersin.  

Mahmut, who practised pharmacy in Aleppo for 23 years, fled with his family to Türkiye in 2013 due to the war. This new chapter meant new opportunities, so he decided to start a business in the medical supply sector.  

Starting a new business seemed daunting, but giving up was never an option. "I had to think about how to start from scratch at this age," he said.  

In 2017, Mahmut gathered with his friends to formulate dietary supplement products, especially those not widely available in Mersin, which laid the foundation for his company. Together with seven partners, they decided to establish a factory.   

Mahmut now has a thriving business, supplying supplements to the local market such as vitamins, cough syrups and fish oil. Dam Medikal employs both locals and migrants, fostering positive interaction and social cohesion in the workplace.  

Mahmut now has a thriving business, generating employment opportunities in Mersin. Photo: IOM 2024/Basak Nur Yirmibesoglu 

Feeling they were ready to expand the business, Mahmut and his partners turned their focus to the foreign market, such as Middle Eastern countries, in addition to supplying the domestic market.  

However, to sell dietary supplements in these countries required authorization from their health ministries. "To meet the requirements, we needed additional equipment for the laboratory," he said.  

To overcome these challenges, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) played a crucial role. Mahmut learned about IOM's Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) through a friend and decided to apply.  

“The company had a very interesting business plan with a strong focus on quality control. Additionally, the company's desire to expand demonstrated a clear vision for growth and sustainability," mentioned a member of IOM’s livelihoods team.  

With IOM's support, the company acquired two new devices. "I am very pleased with the equipment we purchased through the grant. I personally selected them according to our needs, enabling us to expand to other countries," Mahmut remarked. The support also allowed the company to hire two additional employees.  

Dam Medikal expanded its laboratory to invest more time in quality control. Photo: IOM 2024/Basak Nur Yirmibesoglu

Mahmut faced the impact of challenging times in the country but consistently transformed these into positive outcomes.  

"After the February 2023 earthquakes, we opened our doors to a friend who was affected. He was in a difficult position economically. Right now, we are happy to work together," Mahmut added.  

Mahmut and his partners also receive legal assistance from IOM on work permit procedures.  

Today, he wants to keep striving for more.  

“My dream is to increase our workforce from around 15 employees to about 45. We want to produce approximately 50 products and export to more countries."  

Above all, Mahmut shows what migrants can contribute to their new communities – employment, growth and innovation.  

IOM’s Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) initiative facilitates the resurgence of economic activity and the generation of additional employment opportunities. In 2023, 40 companies owned by migrant and local community members benefited from the initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).     

Written by Basak Nur Yirmibesoglu, IOM Türkiye Public Information team