Stories can change our world. When a woman tells her story, she inspires a generation to learn from her struggles and follow her dreams.
PASHA’s Tech Incubator The Nest recently did just that when they allowed successful female entrepreneurs at “Women Leading Change” to share their narrative at the vibrant startup incubation space in Karachi. The event which was in association with Sheops and WomenX took place on 16 November and was part of many other events also taking place at the NEST to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Jehan Ara, who is the big bird at The Nest, started the session by explaining the role the incubator has played in their 20 months of existence with 71 Pakistani startups. After a video showcasing what it was like working at the Nest, a meet-and-greet with female entrepreneurs began.
One of the most interesting speakers was Sana Khan Niazi of Paimona who started her entrepreneurial journey on a trip to UAE where she saw furniture from every other Asian country being retailed and displayed except any pieces from her own country. She came back to Pakistan and visited the craftsmen in Hala, Bhitshah, Gujrawala and Shehzadpur and found out the problems facing these artisans in reaching a larger audience.
“I sat down with my sister, created a sustainability model where we took the local craft, gave it a modern design and helped the craftsmen get continuous orders and generate a regular income,” said Niazi about the idea for her online furniture platform.
Samina Faisal Khan, founder of ForiFix, found her inspiration at home when she had to deal with an army of home-grown terrorists or more commonly known as bedbugs.
“A few hours after using store-bought sprays and medicine to kill pests, my sister was hospitalized for severe nausea and vomiting” said Khan about an incident that led to her researching and reading up on how developed countries were dealing with non-hazardous, odourless solutions to get rid of pests.
“I wanted to help out women who keep deferring these pest-related issues because they are either busy or don’t have a man accessible to do it for them,” says the female entrepreneur who runs Forifix with her husband and a team of 20 exterminators and repairmen.
Next up were co-founders of 3Footwear Mahrukh Isa and Saba Magsi who shared their journey of starting their shoe business from home with a capital of Rs25, 000. Their objective was to make affordable, comfortable and stylish local footwear that also met the needs of flatfooted women as well as women with non-traditional foot sizes.
“Think big but take small steps to your goal every day in order to have a sustainable business,” advised Isa from her learnings.
Another entrepreneur Sana Farooq, CEO of ELN The e-Learning Network that provides online accredited teacher training and Educational Management courses, shared her challenges of living abroad without a support system, raising two kids, being a housewife while also running a business from home.
“Filter out the people who don’t believe in you and surround yourself with people who support you,” said Farooq to 50+ women and a few supportive men sitting in the audience.
Throughout the event, a sign language interpreter stood at the other end of the podium translating the entire session for hearing impaired students Habiba Fatima and Abeera Iftikhar. The girls attend a vocational training center and were there to hear inspirational stories from other women. Ms Shehla had volunteered her sign language skills to NOWPDP’s program, Dastoor, which has placed these talented young women in vocational training centers to hone their skills.
The meet and greet was followed by a panel discussion with Pakistani women who have been visionaries in their own fields and entrepreneurs for a relatively longer time. Moderator Rumaisa Mughal spoke with panelists Jehan Ara, President of Pakistan Software Houses Association, Nadia Patel Gangjee, Founder of Sheops, Lubna Lakhani, CEO of Raintree Spa, Rabia Garib, Chief Editor of The New Spaces, and Talea Zafar, Co-Founder of ToffeeTV.
The event ended with an inspiring talk by the first female cricket journalist Afia Salam who highlighted female high court judges, air traffic controllers, women pilots and many other women who are working in non-conformist careers. At the end, she detailed her own journey as a reporter, chief editor, climate change activist, air traffic controller and creative head.
The session ended with the moderator announcing that The Nest was currently taking applications for the next batch of incubatees and everyone was welcome to pitch their business ideas to them.