Support 20 Female Entrepreneurs

by Tomorrow's Youth Organization
Vetted

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.

Links:

Sumood at an exhbition for her business Shal.
Sumood at an exhbition for her business Shal.

My name is Sumood Jamlan, I am from Aseera village outside of Nablus, and I have a business called Shal. I make embroidered bags, shawls, and accessories and sell those both online and in exhibitions primarily to young women. I started making embroidered products in 2010, but at that time it was merely a hobby. It wasn’t until I joined TYO’s business development project in 2012 that I learned there were steps I could take to turn my hobby into a profitable business. TYO put me on my path to run the successful business that I have today.

Three years later in 2015, TYO’s Outreach Coordinator called me and invited me to attend another project. I jumped at the opportunity as I wanted to improve my business management and marketing skills. I have benefitted from TYO’s programming in countless ways! I used to have a very difficult time with budgeting and keeping all of my financial records in order. TYO’s main project partner, the Small Enterprise Center provided me with the skills and tools I needed to keep more precise and accurate records of all of my labor costs, expenditures, and profit. Before I joined TYO’s most recent project I had been very depressed—the political tension in the country was heightened, I was seldom leaving my home, and my business had essentially come to a screeching halt. Joining TYO’s business development project gave me new energy. Most of all, it helped me learn how to refine my budgeting and bookkeeping skills and how to find my customer base. I’m also really looking forward to advancing my marketing skills at the upcoming Branding and Marketing training.

In the past year, I have participated in five exhibitions—one with the Ministry of Tourism, one with the Nablus municipality, and three with the Ministry of Tourism in Jericho, Birzeit University, and Sebastia. Earlier this year, I went to the Paltel Group Foundation headquarters in Ramallah, showed them my products, and told them if they needed any large orders to contact me. A few months later, Paltel contacted me and asked me to make 158 shawls for all of their employees for Mother’s Day. This experience taught me how to handle stress, how to manage employees (as I had to hire people to complete the order), and how to meet tight deadlines. Not only did I meet the deadline and provide Paltel with all 158 shawls, but I also established a business relationship with Paltel and will continue to work with them in the future.

I highly recommend this project to upcoming entrepreneurs. If someone is just looking for money TYO is not the organization for them. But if they are looking to work hard, improve their skills, and reap the benefits of their hard work then TYO will be a perfect fit!

Links:

Manar
Manar's enterprise funds her daughter's education.

"Many businesspeople say they started from zero, but I really started from zero. As a Palestinian woman without a college degree, who comes from a village in the north where resources for start-ups are so few, all stakes were against me. I fit all the criteria that our society says make me doomed to fail, and that is what drives me to succeed." – Manar Shab’an of Jalameh, Jenin

In 2010, Manar and her family found themselves in dire financial need. With practically zero starting capital, Manar took the bold move to invest her energy in starting up her own vegetable-growing business. All along, the political climate meant she faced the continuing confiscation of her village’s land and quickly learned innovative growing techniques. Manar continuously experiments and discovers new ways to create “vertical” gardens, growing taller vine vegetables over others that require shade to make the best use of a small area of land. Manar’s greenhouses weave together vertical and horizontal growing patterns, maximizing the quantity of vegetables grown on the least amount of land. Given the village’s limited and irregular access to water, Manar also continues to experiment with water-recycling techniques to ensure that the excess water of one plant is used to hydrate neighboring plants.

Although Manar initially started her business to meet the basic financial needs of her family, as her enterprise grew, she imagined greater possibilities by providing education and a better life for her children. As she generated income, bought land, and built a larger house, Manar’s role in the family soon shifted to that of an outspoken decision-maker and leader. Not having had the opportunity to attend university herself, Manar used the profits of her business to save for her children’s higher education. Currently, Manar funds her eldest daughter’s education entirely on the profit she gains from her business.

Through her micro-enterprise, Manar has also stepped up to give back to her community. After receiving a rain barrel from a local aid organization, Manar offered to share it with neighboring farmers who needed access to one. Manar firmly believes that her business’s success should benefit the collective, not just herself and her family.

Since she started her business, Manar has furthermore become very active in her community and is one of the co-founders of Al-Jalameh Women’s Society, an organization committed to the empowerment of village women and children. Manar leads councils in the municipalities of both Al-Jalameh and Jenin in order to ensure that women’s issues are at the forefront of local decision-making. Although Manar has always been a veritable force, as her business grows, she is becoming a stronger and more confident leader who tackles the core issues that her family and community face. Manar receives increasing recognition for her business and leadership, most recently being named one of Jenin’s leading entrepreneurs by the Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, Manar grows pumpkins, mint, and parsley, renting the land on which she works. Her long-term goal is to grow more expensive produce such as strawberries and tomatoes so that she can generate enough profit to buy her land. Until then, she proudly uses the profits of her business to fund her daughter’s undergraduate education and vows to do so until graduation day. Manar is a testament to the fact that there is no mind more innovative than that of a woman who must support her family, and no spirit more determined than that of a Palestinian.

Manar tends vegetables in her "vertical garden"
Manar tends vegetables in her "vertical garden"
Brainstorming what it means to take risks
Brainstorming what it means to take risks

TYO is excited to announce that our newest program for women entrepreneurs in Palestine is in full swing. The objective of the project is to empower women entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation. We are excited to be offering a program that will increase women’s enterprise development skills and provide them with the opportunity to expand their micro-businesses.

Where We Have Been

After interviewing over one hundred highly-qualified entrepreneurs throughout Northern Palestine, TYO selected and invited the top forty-five candidates to join the newest cohort. Following our selection of entrepreneurs, the new program launched in late November 2015 with a month of robust trainings including a psychological and social assessment, an idea sourcing and product development workshop, a bookkeeping training, and a seven-day business planning intensive with an above-average attendance number of 32 participants per training. The psychological and social assessment provided the women with an opportunity for TYO’s in-house psychologist to lead a day-long discussion in the personal, familial and societal forces either limiting or encouraging the women to forward their careers as entrepreneurs.

Following the psychological and social assessment, TYO’s primary technical training partner inaugurated their trainings by providing both an idea sourcing & product development and a bookkeeping workshop. The idea sourcing and product development workshop was a deeply beneficial initial exercise that taught the women how to brainstorm sound business ideas and how to craft and design their products while keeping in theme with their newly formed business ideas. Thereafter, the women received a day-long bookkeeping training which was challenging yet beneficial to both existing and budding business owners. Even the entrepreneurs with existing businesses did not know how to record their expenditures, revenue, and profit and this workshop provided them with that critical skill.

We wrapped up 2015 with a seven-day business planning intensive in which the women were taught how to prepare a sound and structured business plan. The women were given two weeks to apply what they had learned to developing their own business plans.

Where We Are Going

Now that the women have been trained on the basics of business plan development and submitted their business plans, they will enter more intensive group and individual coaching phases. 2016 will be ripe with more intensive trainings as well as a Networking event, business-English intensives, and regional apprenticeship opportunities! The women have just gotten their feet wet and are ready for so much more. These entrepreneurs have demonstrated tremendous commitment to their development and advancement as small business owners and we are continuously honored to walk alongside them on this journey.  

Thank you for your supporting women-led businesses in Palestine!

 

Training session on how to conduct market research
Training session on how to conduct market research
Entrepreneurs Dalal and Asmaa
Entrepreneurs Dalal and Asmaa' smile at a training
Meet Sahar Dweikat
Meet Sahar Dweikat

We're please to bring you the story of Sahar Dweikat, an entrepreneur who previously participated in several of our programming for female entrepreneurs in between the years 2010 and 2013. Now, Sahar's business is more thriving than ever and we sat down with her to check-in and see where her business is today. 

Tell us about your business.

I founded Panda Nation in 2012. Panda Nation is a company that specializes in branding, graphic design, and animation. We help companies better understand, build, and express their brands. Panda Nation provides our clients with creative, unique ideas to the local market using only high-quality design services. We work with startups and new businesses to establish outstanding, long-lasting brands and provide our services to a wide-variety of companies and non-governmental institutions. We are building a client base for regional and international clients. Panda Nation specializes in logo design & corporate branding, flyers, posters, and product packaging and design. We also specialize in advertising short films, web design and development, and domain registration.

We currently serve clients in Palestine but seek to build a client base that serves international clients throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the West. As the founder and team leader of Panda Nation, I have three employees working under my supervision. I am also privileged to have two mentors—one based in the United Stated and the other based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Both mentors are specialists in business strategy and through their mentorship I have learned how to enhance Panda Nation’s marketing strategy.

You recently changed your business name from FlyerAd to Panda Nation. Can you explain why?

FlyerAd just only produced flyers for our clients. As our business has matured and developed, we expanded our services to branding, graphic design, and animation. We decided it was time to have a name and brand that reflected the more comprehensive services we offered. We chose the word Panda because, as a micro-business, we having a growing responsibility to keep the health of our environment and all of its inhabitants at the forefront of our decisions.

What is your greatest success?

I just completed my biggest project to date! The project itself was brokered through TYO. I completed all of the branding materials (flyers, business cards, stickers, packaging, and presentation materials) for twelve entrepreneurs who had recently completed the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs II (WISE II) business development program. This project taught me how to manage my time while meeting the creative and marketing needs of a large number of customers. The project was also a critical reminder that attention to detail is the key to any successful project.

Also, I recently identified my first investor and they have invested $22,000 USD to Panda Nation which will greatly help improve and accelerate the business. Through this generous investment, we now have a website, social media campaign, and can invest more time and energy into my marketing.

What has been your greatest challenge?  

Finding investors has been my greatest challenge. There are a lot of incredibly talented entrepreneurs in Palestine and I am competing with all of them.

Tell us about your experience with TYO's business development programs.

Before beginning my first program with TYO in 2010, my business was merely an idea. Completing two programs at TYO helped me create a business plan, envision a budget, and develop a marketing strategy, helping me take my dream and turn it into a reality. I have created and am a part of a vast network of female entrepreneurs in Palestine and participated in a mentoring program supported by Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. This mentoring program connected me with an entrepreneur in Germany who taught me how to craft and revise a business contract. Through TYO programs, I was afforded opportunities to travel to America and Dubai to attend conferences just for female entrepreneurs! TYO helped me realize that I can conquer any problem my business faces through critical thinking, bravery, and persistence.  

Simply stated, before TYO I didn’t even have a business and now I have a wide client base, my own office in the city of Ramallah (a business hub an hour from where I live), and a major investor. After completing two of TYO’s programs for women entrepreneurs, I am far more confident and self-assured.

Would you recommend TYO's programs to another rising entrepreneur?

Yes, absolutely. I would not be where I am today without the support of TYO.   

 

Want to learn more about Panda Nation? Visit their Facebook page, today.

 

Sahar pitching her business at An-Najah University
Sahar pitching her business at An-Najah University
Sahar in a training and mentoring session
Sahar in a training and mentoring session
Sahar
Sahar's branding for Panda Nation
 

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Organization Information

Tomorrow's Youth Organization

Location: McLean, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.tomorrowsyouth.org
Project Leader:
Niralee Shah
Country Director, Tomorrow's Youth Organization
McLean, VA United States

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