Support 20 Female Entrepreneurs

by Tomorrow's Youth Organization
Vetted
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
The homepage of the new online Toolkit
The homepage of the new online Toolkit

We are excited to announce our newest project to support women entrepreneurs in Palestine: TYO's WISE Toolkit! This Toolkit has been designed to target women in Northern Palestine who dream of opening or expanding their own small business. Through our Toolkit, TYO can continue to support and empower even more women entrepreneurs - including outside of the physical TYO Center. The Toolkit takes users through a six-step process similar to the structure of our in-house entrepreneurship programming. 

The journey through the Toolkit includes psychosocial assessments & quizzes, business plan development guides, branding & marketing tools, resources for financial services, additional support for micro & small business owners in Palestine, and inspirational stories from TYO's women entrepreneurs. We invite you to take a walk through our Entrepreneurial Toolkit which will provide budding entrepreneurs with the foundational building blocks to start their own successful entrepreneurship journeys.

Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur's can learn how to access capital
Be inspired at the "Meet Our Entrepreneurs" page
Be inspired at the "Meet Our Entrepreneurs" page

Links:

Entrepreneur Amna leads a discussion in a seminar
Entrepreneur Amna leads a discussion in a seminar

In our last update, we shared that this year, we began supporting the newest group of Palestinian women entrepreneurs. We began with intensive psychosocial trainings and thanks to your support, TYO has been able to empower these women and their emerging businesses through technical trainings. Working in partnership with the Small Enterprise Center in Ramallah, TYO has been working with entrepreneurs from the Northern West Bank to help develop their business plans, expand their business networks and scale up their businesses. Meet TYO's 15 newest entrepreneurs:

Amna, Ibda’ [Creation] Embroidery

Amna has been producing her embroidery pieces from her home since 2005. She dreams of one day owning a shop that will provide enough space for her to purchase and store the necessary machinery for Ibda' Embroidery. She is always on the lookout for a modern take on traditional Palestinian embroidery and has incorporated the craft into wedding attire and the uniforms of Dabke (a traditional Palestinian dance) troupes in Jenin. 

Falesteen, Play and Learn Educational Tools 

While working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Education at Al Qud’s Open University, Falesteen turned a class project into a business idea. For a final project at university, Falasteen created an educational tool that utilized play as the main component of learning. Falesteen also volunteers with TYO’s early childhood educational program. Working with the target audience of her business provides her with continuous inspiration and concepts for future product ideas. 

Fathia, Al Baylasan Handmade Palestinian Embroidery

Fathia has created embroidery products for over 30 years. As a university student, she would produce embroidery pieces to be sold at events to support fellow classmates with special needs as well as those with financial difficulties. In Nablus, Fathia, with her family’s financial support, established one of the first embroidery shops in the city. Unfortunately, as the economic situation deteriorated in northern Palestine during the second Intifada, so did Fathia’s business. In 2003, after operating for five years, she was forced to close her doors. This did not discourage Fathia’s passion for embroidery. For the past decade, Fathia has continued to embroider clothing to sell to her family, friends, and community through her Facebook page and at local exhibitions. 

Fida', Happy Kids-Nazlet Zeid Preschool 

Fida’, comes from Ya’bad, a small village 20 km west of Jenin, Palestine. In 2009, with the construction of the separation wall and expansion of nearby settlements, the village became increasingly isolated. That’s when Fida’, realizing the need for a safe place for children to learn and play, opened up the first preschool in the area. With land donated by the community and a grant from the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association, Asala, Fida’ was able to turn the space into an operational preschool. Once complete, Happy Kids-Nazlet Zeid Preschool became formally recognized by the Ministry of Education in Jenin. Now children from four neighboring villages also attend the preschool.

Jinan, Needle and Thread 

Jinan learned the tradition of embroidery as a hobby when she was a child. In 2000, Jinan created Needle and Thread with the savings she accumulated from working at a sewing factory in high school and her early adult years to create embroidered household items such as pillows and lampshades. What makes Jinan’s pieces different is that she uses nontraditional Palestinian colors and designs in her products. She is now taking it a step further by incorporating embroidery with crocheting to produce baby clothing.

Khalidah, [Business name TBD]

Khalidah aspires to one day have her own plus-size clothing line. The idea began a couple years ago as a hobby after attending a training course at Shami Textile Center. In order to buy materials to start producing pieces, she collected on debt that was owed from friends and family. The few dollars she occasionally leant out to family members added up over the years. Although it is still in the idea phase, Khalidah has begun producing plus-size women’s clothing by recycling traditional sized garments and evaluates their market potential to further improve her craft.

Lina, Hikayat Al Ward [The Story Of The Flower]

Lina began her business informally in her home three years ago. Soon after, she realized that there was much more to be learned in the field and began working at a florists’ shop. In September of 2014, Lina partnered with a fellow florist, who provided the financial backing, and opened a florist shop in Jenin, a city in northern Palestine. Competition is very high in Jenin, which is an agricultural area, so Lina began a service that allowed Palestinians living in countries outside of the West Bank a way to send flowers and gifts to family members for holidays and special occasions.  

Mai, Candles for Life

Mai decided to take on a for-profit business venture producing handmade candles. It was in her first year of studies that she realized how much she loved candles especially for decorative purposes. At the beginning, Mai produced her unique product by melting premade candles with different colors and scents and then molding them into different designs. After conducting online research, she learned how to make candles from raw materials and where to buy them.

Rafeef, Rafeef's Cuisine

Rafeef, has always been a talented chef in the kitchen. Friends and family compliment her food, often requesting one of her signature dishes for special occasions. She started catering at small events allowing her to earn enough money to expand on the idea and in 2012, Rafeef’s Cuisine was born. One day she aspires to have her own line of food products.

Rahma, Jannah Organic Foods

Due to the increased restrictions of movement in the northern West Bank over the years, the market for local foods decreased while import of processed foods increased. That’s when Rhama, who studied biology while at university, put her degree to use by making all-natural Palestinian foods such as lebnah, makdoos (eggplants stuffed with almonds), jams and zaatar, while providing an additional source of income for her family. In 2013, with around $300 saved up from holiday and birthday gifts over the years, she was able to start her own line of food products to sell at the local market.

Reema, Yaboos Soap

Reema fell in love with soap making after attending a few courses at a local women’s community center in her area. Many of the supplies necessary for production such as herbs, olive oil and honey were bountiful in her village. In 2013, after receiving a small grant from the Ma’an Development Center, Reema finally took the next step and started producing soap. She is still in the early phases of her business, selling small amounts at the local market.

Rola, Al Jana’ Rayan [Paradise Honey]

Rola was looking to do something outside of being a homemaker and took a course on honey production with Agricultural Relief in Tulkarem. Rola, who had saved money from birthdays and holidays over the years, purchased two beehives, which have now blossomed into 23. With the help of her neighbor she was able to store them on their land. As she started to produce profits from selling the honey, she repaid her neighbor’s favor by employing her. Through networking at events, she is now considering expanding her profession to include flower production.

Sa’eda, Al Marsa Industrial Tatreese

The idea of starting an industrial embroidery business began three years ago when Sa'eda recognized the market need. A custom designed embroidery piece can take several months if done by hand. By using an industrial machine to produce embroidery, it is quicker, cheaper and has a cleaner finish. Currently Sa’eda operates informally out of her home, producing handmade Palestinian embroidery pieces for friends and family. Once she is able to purchase the necessary machinery to industrially manufacture products, she intends to formally register her business with the Tulkarem Chamber of Commerce. 

Shurooq, Nawa’em Art

Originally from Nablus, Shurooq began creating stained glass home décor as a hobby over 12 years ago. While attending a local handcrafts course, the instructor, impressed with Shurooq’s artistry, began displaying her pieces for sale at the community center. She began selling her pieces in 2005 while attending additional classes to further develop her technique. In 2012, Shurooq even received a small loan from the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association, Asala, to further her business venture.  

Solafa, Zaina [Decorative] Soap

Solafa was instantly drawn to the idea of making soap after attending a training course and she valued the concept of integrating the Palestinian tradition with natural resources, such as olive oil and lavender, which are readily available in her village. In September 2014, Solafa sold the gold jewelry that she no longer wears and bought the raw materials to begin producing soap. In addition to olive oil, which is common in many of the soaps made in the region, Solafa incorporates all natural ingredients that are known to have health and beauty benefits. Avocado oil, goat’s milk, mint leaves and cactus oil are just a few ingredients that are believed to have beneficial effects such as reducing wrinkles, treating acne and much more. 

Rafeef (Rafeef
Rafeef (Rafeef's Cuisine) displays her certificate
Small group discussion during the training
Small group discussion during the training

When we last checked in, we shared with you the exciting product launch of TYO's businesswomen. Marking the end of the incubation phase, each female entrepreneur was able to successfully launch her products, services, samples and marketing materials. Now, TYO is thrilled to announce that we have begun supporting even more Palestinian entrepreneurs this year!

The women were selected through a TYO-led outreach and application process. TYO conducted outreach through our partners and network throughout cities in the north – including universities, civil society organizations, and economic associations – to announce the training and invite aspiring women entrepreneurs to visit TYO’s center to complete an application.

To kick-off the support for the new entrepreneurs, TYO held a three-day intensive psychosocial training. The training brought together aspiring women entrepreneurs from across northern Palestine, with the goal of both empowering the women as entrepreneurs while also assessing their abilities, risk-taking levels, coping skills, and leadership potential as future entrepreneurs. As a part of this training, participants participated in individual self-assessment tests and engaged in small group activities and discussion.

TYO's Psychosocial Program Manager, Suhad Jabi, who conducted the training, shared several key findings. 

  • At first many of the entrepreneurs exhibited low self-esteem; despite the fact that they had overcome extremely difficult obstacles throughout their lives, many at first were unable to see this as a strength and therefore doubted their potential as entrepreneurs.
  • The training offered a platform where women were able to share many of their personal experiences and see that those were often shared by others. Over the course of the three days, we saw that this collective sharing of experiences gave the women an increasing sense of confidence, trust, security, and self-awareness, especially in terms of viewing their problems in a wider societal and cultural context.
  • Although there were some women who, at the end of the training, were still unable to view themselves as holding equal rights with men, they exhibited energy and drive to improve their situation by opening and growing their own business, with the goal being to help their family and meet their basic needs.

At TYO, we understand that in order for the entrepreneurs to succeed, follow up work with the women will require coaching on basic business skills as well as more direct and individual psychosocial intervention. Follow-up trainings will focus on further building the self-confidence of the women, both through increasing their knowledge base and by offering more platforms for the group to share their successes and challenges as women entrepreneurs.

At the end of the training, 40 women entrepreneurs were selected to participate in the training series. We look forward to keeping you updated on some of Palestine's newest entrepreneurs and the strides they're making to make their businesses become realities. Thank you so much for your continued support for women's empowerment in the Middle East! 

Suhad helps a participant with her self-evaluation
Suhad helps a participant with her self-evaluation
The participants complete the training!
The participants complete the training!
Business owner Huwaida
Business owner Huwaida's products: Meera's soaps

In August, we introduced you to female entrepreneurs entering their incubation phase with TYO in Palestine. Thanks to your continued support, we're please to share with you an update about our very exciting product launch and networking event held in Ramallah in October. In preparation for their first official product launch, entrepreneurs worked to perfect their English to effectively pitch their business and explain how their products were made. They also received support in best practices in branding, and how to further improve their product packaging.

As a part of the product launch in Ramallah, each businesswoman was given a booth to display her products, services, samples and marketing materials. Guests at the event were able to rate the businesses on a score card based on the following criteria:

  • Business presentation and appeal
  • Logo and brand identification 
  • Packaging and marketing materials
  • Pricing
  • Quality
  • Creativity
  • Memorability 
  • Taste

Take a look at the photos from the event. TYO-Nablus is so proud of the strides these budding entrepreneurs have made!

Entrepreneur Ghada offers samples of her mushrooms
Entrepreneur Ghada offers samples of her mushrooms
Somood
Somood's business, Shal Embroidery, was a hit!
Trainer Ahmad Abu Baker scores each business
Trainer Ahmad Abu Baker scores each business
Nahawand explains Play with Numbers to a crowd
Nahawand explains Play with Numbers to a crowd
Officers from the US Consulate & Magic Design mugs
Officers from the US Consulate & Magic Design mugs
 

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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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