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Jan 23, 2018

Special Products for Your Special Day

My name is Wafa'a, and I am from Tulkarem. Through my business, "Wafa Collection, "I make and sell handmade accessories, wedding favors, bridal bouquets, and dresses for young girls. My target market is primarily young women. Growing up, one of the things I enjoyed most was creating handmade products out of materials available around my home, and over time I became more skilled and talented in this field. However, it wasn't until I joined the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) project in 2015 that I learned how I could turn my pastime into a business. APWE put me on my path to run the successful business that I have today.

 

Before joining the project, I would sometimes make products and offer them for free to friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to observe their reaction and improve on my work. When I noticed how positive their reactions were, I made the decision to start my own business. I started off by creating an official social media page to promote my work through photos. The issue was that I had a number of interested customers whose needs and requests I could not satisfy, and I knew that I needed more formal training to improve my business and customer relations.

 

Through APWE, I have learned so many new helpful business practices. I have learned how to be detail-oriented and account for every step in the process of selling one of my products, from initial communication with customer, through production, until delivery and receiving their feedback. I’ve realized how helpful and important it is to develop a formal business, marketing, and financial plan to experiment with new techniques and then have the tools to evaluate how my business is doing.

 

In addition, previously I had been sending my products to a tailor to complete the finishing because my finishing and sewing skills were not strong enough, and that significantly increased the cost of my products. I learned through APWE that making a small investment in improving my own product finishing techniques could help me reduce the cost and production time for my products greatly. Through the mentorships, I was paired with a talented tailor. Over four days, I learned how to do proper finishing on products as diverse as purses, wallets, hair accessories, and scarves. I’ve started to implement these new skills with my products, and I am extremely satisfied with the results.

 

APWE has also boosted my confidence. While showcasing my products at the Entrepreneur and More exhibition, I felt so proud of myself and what I had accomplished in the previous year. Many customers praised my work for its quality and good taste. After the exhibition, many more orders started coming in through my official business Facebook page. I think that having the opportunity to interact in person with customers at the exhibition increased their trust and confidence in me as a business woman who cares about their needs.

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to sell my products in six different shops. Three of these shops submit regular requests for about 50-100 products per month, and the other three request products based upon their need and current supply. I can already see how much Wafa Collection is going to improve in the coming years. It was difficult at first without the right support system and knowledge around me, but having the opportunity to learn new business practices in APWE gave me the mindset and skills to succeed. Now I know that I can achieve anything with the right skills, knowledge, and trust in myself.

Dec 4, 2017

The Art of Making Mistakes- EFL Teaching at TYO with International Intern Katherine

Teacher Mahmoud and students roar in lion masks.
Teacher Mahmoud and students roar in lion masks.

“There is no such thing as a mistake in art.” Even now, years later, I can still remember my elementary school art teacher encouraging me to embrace mistakes. She showed me how a misplaced line or extra paint splotch could become a new design. There is always a way to transform an accident into an opportunity. As a child pre-occupied with perfection, art gave me space to develop at my own pace. I enjoyed learning without worrying about making mistakes.  

My elementary teacher must have known that using art in education helps students to develop and become well-rounded individuals. In June 2017, The Arts Fund USA released a statement confirming that students who learn through art are well-equipped to express themselves, show empathy towards others, and collaborate and solve problems. They are also willing to take risks and are resilient in their learning. The California Alliance for Arts Education adds that students with exposure to the arts tend to have higher test scores, higher school attendance rates, and are more likely to continue their education beyond the secondary level than their counterparts. They grow into critical thinkers and innovators.

I have come to appreciate the truth of these findings while using art to teach English to students at TYO. Including daily art projects in my lesson plans has provided children with a critical sense of both structure and accomplishment. They feel prepared for class each day and they know that even if they make mistakes while learning English, they will always be able to take pride in their work. Art emboldens students to be creative and to make the mistakes that language learners must make in order to develop.                

Art also gives students freedom to make mistakes and take risks in their daily lives. Many of my students live in crowded homes and neighborhoods. Due to space and noise restrictions at home, they do not always have the ability to buzz around in bee wings, make a kite and then fly it, or roar while wearing lion masks. TYO is a place where they do not need to worry about being perfect, still, or quiet. They are free to complete an art project, take pride in their work, play with it, and simply enjoy being children. I have seen that freedom translate into an eagerness to continue learning and attending class at TYO.

Art has instilled my students with a new sense of self-esteem and motivation in their learning. It has also enabled them to build stronger relationships with one another and with me. In my two months at TYO, I have watched every single one of my students grow through art. Art has fueled their imaginations and their curiosity about themselves and the world around them. Even after our session together ends, I hope they will continue to approach their education with enthusiasm and a willingness to take risks.

Students show off their lion masks in EFL class.
Students show off their lion masks in EFL class.
A TYO student smiles in his bee wings.
A TYO student smiles in his bee wings.
A volunteer helps students with their art project.
A volunteer helps students with their art project.
Oct 23, 2017

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Entrepreneur In
Entrepreneur In'am visits the TYO Center in Nablus

In’am was born and raised in Jamaa'en, Nablus. She studied mathematics at An-Najah National University and has been working with the Jamaa'en Governmental Municipality for over nine years. In'am needed an additional source of income and decided to transform her long time hobby into a sustainable business.  With the money she saved from her job at the municipality, In’am decided to purchase three calves. Initially, she focused her business strictly on the process of fattening and selling her calves. In’am would buy the calves when they are one-week old, feed them for six to eight months, and sell them once they weigh 300 kilograms. As In’am generated her first profit, she used it to purchase more calves.

In’am’s interest in Tomorrow’s Youth Organization’s entrepreneur program for women was sparked when representatives from TYO visited the Jamaa'en Women’s Association to present the project and recruit entrepreneurs from her village. While In’am had been running an effective, profitable business, there was always a chaotic element. She had never created a business plan and had only operated her business on a day-to-day basis. She needed assistance to identify the source of the chaos and address it.

When the training began, In’am was eager to learn how to develop a business plan. She learned how to develop sound and comprehensive business, marketing, and financial plans. During financial planning training, she began to understand the purpose behind documenting all of expenses and income of the business. She also learned through psychosocial training that she must document the money spent paying family for their labor as an expense. Through the Idea Sourcing and Product Development Learning Module, In’am learned creative ways to increase her business’s profit. The process of fattening and selling calves takes approximately eight months, resulting in profit generation every eight months. After the Idea Sourcing and Product Development training, In’am purchased cows in order to make milk and cheese and generate a more consistent profit stream. Through the Small Enterprise Center's (SEC) marketing training, she also learned to strategically pick a market and customer base where there is minimal competition. After Ina'am's participation in the Entrepreneur and More exhibition, she was able to expand her customer base. Now not only does she have customers in Jamaa'en, she also has a market in Nablus and its surrounding villages. Her customers constantly show their satisfaction of Ina'am's products and continue to order dairy products on a regular basis.

In’am’s business is her primary focus in life. She believes in taking risks, loves the action her business brings to her life, and is fully confident that if and when she takes risks, she will succeed. In'am started her business three years ago with only three calves, but she now owns eight cows and three calves. In the future, In'am hopes to further expand her business by buying additional calves and cows which will enable her to increase her productivity. She hopes her products will become nationally well-known and sold in every supermarket in Palestine. In’am’s work is historically categorized as “man’s work” and she could not be more proud to take the proverbial bull by the horns and break the sector’s glass ceiling in her village.

 
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