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Jan 30, 2017

Crocheting Her Way to Success - The Story of Kariman


My name is  Kariman. I was born and raised in Tulkarem. A couple of years ago, I started my own busienss "Tulkarem Crochet." I make and sell all types of crocheted products including but not limited to clothes, house accessories, hair accessories, and bookmarks. Whenever a customer wants to order a specific, customized product, I happily make it for them whatever it may be.

My mother taught me how to crochet when I was very young, so I have always had the skills but for a long time never knew how much I could do with it. Years later, when my nephew was born I decided to make him baby clothes using crochet techniques I learned from my mother. When people saw my work, they were amazed and asked if I could crochet clothes for their children as well. Seeing their positive reaction to my work encouraged me for the first time to see this skill as a business opportunity. I took the first step by making an online page for my business to take customized orders, and soon after I participated in local handicraft exhibitions held by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Palestinian Working Women's Society.

While my business was slowly improving, I knew that I needed to gain professional trainings in business development in order for it to continue to grow into a sustainable, profitable endeavor. When I heard about TYO's project for supporting Palestinain women entrepreneuers, I jumped at the opportunity and joined the program, and I have not looked back since.

Since joining TYO's entrepreneurshup rprogram, I have benefitted in countless ways. Before joining the program, I used to work on each crocheted item alone, and it would take me hours to complete a single piece. The time I spent on each piece and selling at a cost comparable to market prices just was not sustainable. Through a business development training I took at TYO, I noticed that having partners to work with me on large orders or throughout a heavy workload would help me keep the business running at the right pace during high demand. I now have 2-3 partners working with me, and it has been extremely beneficial for my business.

The increase in productivity has helped me maintain recurring customers and attract some new ones, too. Through the branding and marketing trainings offered by TYO, I also learned the importance of not only marketing my product, but also marketing myself as an entrepreneur. I learned how much choosing an effective and professional business name, logo, and slogan could advance my business's image and improve sales.

Last November, I had the opportunity to participate in TYO's "Entrepreneur and More" exhibition, which helped me on so many levels. The timing was perfect, as it was the start of winter and there was a high demand on my products so I was able to make many sales. Also, participating alongside many other handicraft businesses meant that the exhibition attracted customers specifically interested in handmade, high quality products and therefore helped me target the market I had been seeking. Following the exhibition, my customer base noticeably increased. That week, I had more than 300 new active followers on my business page who placed many customized orders after seeing more of my work online. Furthermore, upon seeing my products at the exhibition, a major Nablus retailer requested that I produce 100 crocheted rugs for the store in addition to crocheting pillow covers in the future. It was the first time I received an order of that size from a large retailer, and at that point I started to see how far I could really go with this business. Currently, I am even wokrking on orders to be sent outside of Palestine, one to a customer in Jordan and another to a customer in Lebanon. 

After the exhibition, the visibility of my business increased, and along with it my trust in the quality of my products and confidence in myself as an entrepreneur, and as a woman. In return, customers also began to trust me and my work much more. Recently, I was interviewed by two local TV stations about my business and experience as a woman entrepreneur in Palestie. I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak about being an entrepreneur and how that how impacted my life on both a professional and personal level.

Most of all, this project has been such a self-esteem boost. I am more confident now after starting my own business and seeing that I could increase my business's potential through basic business development trainings and coachings. I used to doubt whether I could be like other businesswomen, particualrly in communication with customers. But now, I am confident that I can maintain and grow the great relationship I have built with current customers, and moreover I can use what I've learned this year to grow my customer base.


Dec 24, 2016

New Experiences, New Opportunities!

Muhaned and Shaima
Muhaned and Shaima

Participation in extracurricular activities for children and youth can be hard to come by in Nablus's refugee camps and underserved communities. TYO’s center provides children and youth with an open space to learn, play, and take part in activities that they otherwise would not have access to. The academic program offers students educational support in Arabic, English, and math. There is a free day each week where students have the option to attend different recreational activities at centers around the city, such as swimming pools, bowling lanes, and martial arts schools. These events are the only opportunities some students have to learn from new experiences outside of school and the home.

Below, Muhaned and Shaima, a brother and sister who participate together in the academic support program, share how they have gained confidence in both academic and social capacities from their time at TYO.

Welcome Shaima and Muhaned! Can you tell me about your family and how you are involved with TYO?

Shaima: I am twelve years old and in the sixth grade. I attend the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) mixed boys and girls school in Nablus. I have nine siblings - six sisters and three brothers. I am the seventh oldest in my family. I started at TYO in the Core early childhood program when I was in the second grade and now I am in the academic support program for older students. My dad also works at TYO as a guard, so I really feel like we are part of a family here.

Muhaned: I am ten years old and in the fifth grade. I attend the UNRWA school for boys in Nablus. I started at TYO in the Core early childhood program when I was in first grade and now I am in the academic support program with my older sister.

What makes your experience at TYO unique?

Shaima: They teach very differently here than at school because we learn by playing games and having fun. I have the hardest time in math and the weaker students do not get enough attention at school. Before I started the academic program, I would try to get my older sister to help me, but it is very hard because she is busy with her own homework. At TYO, the teachers take the time to explain new ideas in a way that we all can understand and there are many volunteers that are happy to help if I have any problems. I can already see my grades getting better. I have more trust in myself and I participate more in class.

Muhaned: I like coming here because we get to play games and we have space to run around.  At school, there are too many students and sometimes we get angry and hit each other. There is also a lot of yelling and I always feel lost inside the classroom. Only the strong students get attention and sometimes I feel left behind. Discipline is also done differently at TYO than at school because we talk about problems and try to find solutions. I realize now that violence does not solve problems. Hitting each other at the boys’ school is common, and even if a boy hits me, I will not hit him back anymore. I learned at TYO that I can solve the problem in other ways and ask adults for help.

Have you noticed any changes in your academic performance since starting the program?

Shaima: We play a lot of grammar games that teach us new vocabulary and sentence structures in a fun way. Last week we played a game where we had to talk about our dreams for the future and I felt really comfortable presenting to the class. Sometimes I repeat the TYO activities at home for extra practice or just for fun. At TYO, they build my confidence and encourage all students in the class to participate. It turns out that most of the time at school I had the correct answers to questions the teacher would ask us, but I used to be scared to say it in case I was wrong. Now I am not so scared. If I am right, that's great, and if I am wrong, that is how I can learn. I learned at TYO that is is okay to make mistakes, and that that is how I can learn and grow. 

Muhaned: The hardest subject for me is Arabic - I cannot even write! Math and English are easier for me, even though I speak Arabic at home. I do not even know the basics, and I am not getting better yet but I hope I will. In Math, I am doing well and the extra help that I get from the academic program is making my grades even better.

What has been your most memorable experience at TYO?

Shaima: I love the karate class the most. I never had the chance to do martial arts before coming to TYO. It teaches discipline in a fun way and I get to work on becoming physically stronger.  Also, I do not get to dress up often and at school there are uniforms. Here at TYO, I get to wear all my favorite outfits!

Muhaned: I love counting games with balloons and going to the pool on Thursdays, which is our free day!  We do not have many public swimming pools in Palestine, and the private ones are often too much to afford, but TYO makes sure that we get to experience new things. I love being in the water! 


Nov 3, 2016

Safaa's Path to Business Success

My name is Safa’a. I was born and raised in Attara, a village outside of Jenin which is one of the largest cities in the northern West Bank. I have a Bachelor’s degrees in English and for years I have working  as a teacher in a pre-school. I love my work; every day I see it as reclaiming what a fun, adventure- and color-filled childhood should be and what so many Palestinian children have not had.

However, I always knew that working as a pre-school teacher was not enough. I had dreams for something bigger. My dream has always been to own and operate my own business as a way to do something I enjoy while also supporting my family financially and being economically independent. This dream became even more important to me when my husband endured a workplace injury and became disabled and unable to continue his work.

The idea of starting a business of medicinal soaps and lotions came to me after a relative of mine developed terrible eczema. She visited a doctor who provided her with a cream that only made her condition worse. I immediately saw an opportunity for me to provide her and the wider community with something better, and I started by soap business. The majority of my products are made with goat milk, given there is an abundance of it in my village.

At first, my customers were primarily people from Attara and other near-by villages. Many of them purchase products from me repeatedly, not only once! Through trainings, individualized coaching, and regular support from Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, I learned how to market my products to wider markets, and now I have my products in local pharmacies and beauty salons.

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization also gave me the opportunity to participate in a Branding and Marketing training with a branding expert, and then work side-by-side with a graphic designer to design more beautiful packaging for my products.

When I heard about the support TYO offers to women entrepreneurs, I knew I had to join. I was most excited for the branding and marketing support, but everything I have participated in so far has helped, including the business development trainings, psychosocial support, English and IT intensives, and networking with banks and microfinance institutions. I have learned far more than I expected especially in regards to improving my bookkeeping and accounting practices. I have established a stronger network with other women micro-enterprise  owners in Palestine through meeting TYO’s other participants.  That network also helped me to recently apply for funding for my business through the Counseling Committee in Jenin.

TYO also helped me to open a checking account with a local bank, which was an excellent decision. During a financial literacy and awareness day, I was able to meet with multiple banks and understand how their services could help my business. The Bank of Palestine representative helped me understand the importance of saving money to either purchase more raw materials or keep it for any unforeseen personal or professional emergency, and protect my business from being impacting by that emergency. If and when  I decide to take a loan for my business, having a bank account and history of working with that bank will help my application a lot.

Before joining TYO, I also did not know the importance of registering with the local Chamber of Commerce. Through TYO’s business registration session, I learned that registering my business could help me export my products internationally. My brother lives in Sweden, and I would love to be able to send him my products through official channels in order for him to sell them to Europeans. I took the first step and registered with the Palestinian Ministry of Economics, and I now have a merchant license. Now I am just a few steps away from registering with the Chamber of Commerce, and I could not be more excited for the next phase of my business.


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