Student Spotlight

Patricia Letayf MPA'17

Posted Dec 19 2023
Patricia Latayf

Five One Labs is a startup incubator founded by Alice Bosley ‘17 and Patricia Letayf ‘17 that supports refugee and conflict affected entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.

Company: Five One Labs
Location: Erbil, Iraq

Why We Love Five One Labs

The mission of this incubator is not just to grow new businesses but to empower people to rebuild their livelihoods and contribute to the growing economies of their communities. The entrepreneurs at Five One Labs are given training, mentorship from successful entrepreneurs from the US and a community of creative “changemakers” to share their experiences with. Five One Labs is working to change the stigma that refugees are a burden on society, and change the narrative so that society understands that refugees are talented and educated people who have the ability to contribute to society.

Alice and Patricia’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Alice, who prior to SIPA worked at the UN refugee ofice, and Patricia, who worked as a Middle East analyst, met on their first day at SIPA and quickly realized they were inspired by the same issue: helping refugees and women help their communities.

To Alice, the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is loneliness: Five One is a revolving door of new faces, but the team is only 3 people. Also, she notes the individual struggle and guilt that comes with how much work there is to be done, and how hard it is to take time off from something you really believe in. Patricia believes that uncertainty is the hardest thing about her job -- and not always knowing what she should be doing.

In addition to the feeling of building something yourself from the ground up, Patricia and Alice both feel the community they have created is the best thing about being entrepreneurs.

Running a High Impact Business

Five One Labs measures its impact in multiple ways -- how many more women are engaged in startups, how the people who experience the workshops and training at Five One Labs grow as leaders, and how the community improves overall from the new leaders’ work and how, specifically, have these businesses impacted local economies. Long term, as important as it is to get ideas off the ground, how many of them are sustained over time and continue to have an impact. That is the real test!

Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

We hope that SIPA students understand that taking risks is key to being successful entrepreneurs. It is critical that you are passionate about the issue first and foremost. If you don’t have passion for the change you want to see happen, it is unlikely that it ever will. There are so many challenges to being an entrepreneur that it is really easy to give up. Without passion, you simply won’t make it. Passion plus grit, determination and humanity.

Learn more about Five One Labs: Columbia University Entrepreneurship