In conversation with Mariam Issa

Interview with Mariam Issa by Sarah Yusuf

Mariam Issa is not only a remarkable person and infectiously positive person but also a great mother of five. Despite her being my mother, I still didn’t really know much about her involvement with
space 2b and got the opportunity to really talk to her about it in an entirely unbiased way.

Mariam began Space2b with Janine; Space2b is one of the most profound projects she has been a part of. I sat down with her and went into depth about why this was.

SARAH: Hi, i’m Sarah Yusuf and here with me today is Mariam Issa, Space2B’s Ambassador. So, How did you get involved with Space2b?

MARIAM: Well, I started the space2b with Janine, It was all her idea, she came to me and asked if I could be a part of this dream she had.

SARAH: Awesome, So how has space 2b impacted your journey?

MARIAM: … I think it gives me a sense of doing something that I am proud of and …. Also it’s given me an insight into the art and design industry. While I love beautiful clothes I’ve never really had a chance to witness the behind the scenes creative process or the wonderful people who make them, so being a part of the creative process of art and design has added to my value of life and beauty.

SARAH: Yeah that’s cool, so where do you see Space 2b in 5 years?

MARIAM: Well, I see The Space2b in 5 years to be …. established, independent and sustainable and by independent I mean financially, so independent from grants because we seek grants, we seek other peoples help, so most of the work we do and most of the people working are volunteer based, and that sort of … handicaps us. The way I see the shop going and the direction its heading, I see it being a very sustainable organisation where good, beautiful works of art are sold.

SARAH: Okay that’s great, so where do you and Janine find designers and artists for the store?

MARIAM: Well, we will work with migrant and refugee women; um … we find them through networks of referral, word of mouth and the mainstream artists and designers are people Janine usually knows since she is a designer herself. The designs and art is Janine’s territory, she incorporates anything that she might like from a designer perspective but with recruiting … we just do it together through people we know and our own separate contacts.

SARAH: Having already had so much on your plate with different projects, what made Space2b special/different? What was your vision for it?

MARIAM: My vision for it to begin was … I loved the idea of connecting people, especially women, I mean Space2b is not just for women but we work predominantly with women and my connection with the idea is the fact that I love entrepreneurship and I love the fact that this is an autonomy where women can be given a chance, to be able to make their own things and make money from that. Also that part of training, to train the women to achieve and grow in confidence, being able to use the shop as a place where they can feel a part of the community despite it sometimes being a strange new place for some of them. I think that comes from my own background and my own integration story, I feel like had I had a space like Space2b I would have progressed much faster.

Space2b – new and permanent home!

Its official and we are open for business.
Space2b’s new site was launched on Friday night, 18th November.
Thank you everyone who came from near and very far to celebrate with us.
Our store is open for business with all sorts of wonderful gifts, clothing, jewellery and lots more.
Come and visit us and bring your friends.
We are open wed – Sat 10-5pm and will be expending our hours over Christmas.

Together we make a difference

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Launch with Janine, leila, Mariam and Clare.  Leila will be running the art Gallery for Space2b.

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Abuk from TWICH, will be joining us next year with her sewing machines and teaching Cert. 3
in sewing.  Her beautiful clothing is already in store.

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The back area of Space2b which will become the Laneway Cafe, early next year, selling coffee,
drinks and delicious takeaway lunch.

We will be running lots of activities, movie nights and creative workshops, so watch this space!

The story of Space2b with Janine

The Space2b Carlisle St shop closed down temporarily this week, but the spirit of Space2b is still around and a lot of work continues in the background!
I went to Janine to find out where it all started.

JESSICA: Where did the idea of Space2b come from?
JANINE: I always kind of had that idea, and then a friend of mine, Jane, who worked for Tracing with the Red Cross, introduced me to Abdi from Somalia.  He was one of the first families she helped to re-unite. One day as we were sitting in my kitchen having a cup of tea he said to me “my dream when I settle is to establish myself as a tailor.” It was that one little sentence that inspired Space2b. I thought, this is just one person out of  so many with creative skills, who just need the opportunity, the connections, to live their dream.

JESSICA: How did Mariam get involved?
JANINE: I met Mariam in her RAW garden, and I used to talk about Space2b all the time. Each time it would inspire her more and more. She would always say “you Westerners, you’re always worried about the who and the where and the how and the why,  you never do anything! Just do it!” And so I decided to ‘just do it’! That day, I walked down the road and there was a sign saying “pop-up shop short term rent” and I thought ‘this is fated, what’s the worst that could happen’?  The next day Mariam came to my house and told me that she wanted to be my partner!”
So we did it together!   How ironic that she is also from Somalia!

JESSICA: How did it start with all the designers?
JANINE: As a designer myself  I used to sell my clothing, Jiniku in markets and was part of  the designer community.  The idea had been in my head for years, and I began to see the connection between the two.  Many independent designers want to make their range in Australia in small quantities.  Many new migrants have the skills to do this and also want to run their own creative business.  I believe that “Without connections, you are nobody” which is so true isn’t it? You come here as a migrant, and nobody knows you. Nobody really cares who you are. You don’t mean anything to anyone. You’re defined by your friends, your family, your work.  We need connections to thrive.

JESSICA: Are you happy with how Space2b has developed so far?
JANINE: I must say, if I thought about the hard work, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I cannot believe the amount of people that have come on board. It’s just taken off. It’s no longer about Mariam and myself – it’s its own identity. That’s been just amazing. At the very beginning the shop was such a mess. As Mariam said, if I had thought about everything, there’s no way I’d have done it! But everyone came and just gave their time. It’s quite amazing. We get wonderful comments from so many people. What I hadn’t realised was the potential, not just for new migrants and refugees, but for everyone involved. Work experience, practising English, meeting other people. It’s multilayered.

JESSICA: What do you see for the future of Space2b?
JANINE: With time we want to partner with the RAW garden so that there will be a garden, and a little café. With the addition of the food and garden, people can come and get the whole experience, and bring their kids.   I see Space2b developing as lots of small businesses, the shop, gallery, creative workshops, events, small manufacturing and designer studios.  In the background we will be working together with new migrants and refugee, creating, sharing and learning.  It is a two-way process. Some will develop their own businesses in jewellery or fashion for example, others who would like more support may make products for the Space2b brand, some will become employed in the various areas of Space2b. For example, we’ll have someone running the gallery and a few running the shop. We will start to develop a small manufacturing businesses producing products for established Australian designers, like sewing cushion covers, screen printing or making a small run of shirts.. So we will be building mini-manufacturing, locally. The potential is huge and exciting!

JESSICA: What’s the plan for the time off?
JANINE: It is not really ‘time off’.  We will continue to run our mentoring program and develop products so that when we find the new place we are ready to go. We’ll continue with that, and run some English conversation classes in the background. A business needs a couple of years to become established, so we will be looking for seed funding. That’s the plan.


If anyone knows of a suitable space for our shop or knows anyone that can help, please contact us!