“Brand yourself justly- you are a walking business!”

When I first got on the Island in 2017, I noticed there was a gap in the business sector. Unlike in Kenya where entrepreneurship empowerment is supported and is rapidly growing, this was missing here. 3 years down the line, however, more and more organisations and individuals are rising to the occasion to close this gap. 

One such organisation is GIKAD, (Girişimci Kadınların Desteklenmesi Derneği)- an association supporting entrepreneurial women. I was lucky to be part of the first cohort of women trainees through the initiative targeting universities in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. The July meeting attracted women leaders from across the board with immense experiences in a variety of fields including clothing and beauty industry, food processing, construction, health sector, people working in the corporate world and students interested in the business sector.  

Storymolly caught up with a few young women who took part in the ground-breaking program, three months after the event. They share with us their experiences during the workshop and their take-away message. 

Farah: A Passionate Palestinian lady currently living in TRNC. When she is not riding horses, she is engaging in interior design and has since the workshop, started an online clothing store.

How have your priorities changed since you attended the GIKAD workshop? 

I have been thinking differently about women ever since the workshop. Even though I have always been an advocate for human rights, especially for the Palestinian community, today, I see myself being even more keen to women issues in a different way. Additionally, I have been working more on myself. I am engaging in activities that bring me peace and joy, one of them being horse riding. I can say, I am more conscious about how I live my everyday life. 

Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting your business out? 

Although I have not started my business yet, I am now a more positive and responsive person towards life. I look forward to starting my business soon. At the moment, I am collecting information and carrying out research on my business idea. 

How do you define success?

To me, success is not about not having needs. On the contrary, success is embarking on a journey with all your needs and working everyday despite these challenges. For me, if anything makes me happy, I pursue it with all I have. As long as you are working towards your goal, then that is success. Keep pushing forward. 

Since the workshop, what are you doing now?

Since the workshop, I have started to save towards my business. I decided to open a separate bank account specially meant for this business. My business partner and I are doing research and engaging with people in the industry. 

Horse riding is my biggest accomplishment so far since the workshop. 

What are some of the daily habits that keep you focused?

I love music. I wake up to music. I take shower and dress while listening to music or the teachings of the Quran. I enjoy a well-made meal to recharge my energy. Additionally, you will find me reading and enjoying the ‘me time’. Sometimes, I like scrolling social media pages for inspirational quotes or funny videos. 

What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur/ a woman?

Being a Hijabi woman (covered), I have had to learn to accept that some people will always see the hijab first before they ‘see’ me. It can be draining. My only wish is for people not to judge others based on their outlook.  

What was your take-home message after the workshop?

I  learned that I should use my voice to advocate for women and those who cannot stand for themselves. Nowadays, I am more open to pointing out any form of mistreatment towards me or other people. 

Esther : A Kenyan living in TRNC. She loves music and is currently pursuing a variety of activities to secure financial stability.

How have your priorities changed since you attended the GIKAD workshop? 

I have become more  targeted and goal oriented. Additionally, I have found that I am now more self-motivated, waking up earlier with my goals in mind. I am working towards becoming more positive and shifting my focus to finding solutions to challenges around me. 

How do you define success?

As of now, success is being able to achieve my goals, feeling happy and being proud of what I have accomplished. 

Since the workshop, what are you doing now?

Since the workshop, I have become focused and eager to chase my dreams. 

Although I am still doing the same job, I also learned that change is good if you are not happy where you are. 

A couple of young ladies participate in the early morning yoga at the GIKAD event held at Acapulco in July 2021

What are some of the daily habits that keep you focused?

Positive attitude; personal care; waking up early; exchanging ideas with others; and reading more books 

What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur/ a woman?

Fear of failure, the fear of starting something not knowing if it will work or not. The most challenging part is gender equality, being looked down upon just because you are a woman. As women, we lack a support system, lack of connections that we need for financial and emotional support.  

What was your take-home message after the workshop?

Take risks. Don’t fear failure; be patient and have a passion for what you do; upgrade your skills everyday; don’t be alone- have a network where you can seek support.  Additionally, believe in yourself and what you do…, the list is endless.

Dilnoza: She is a passionate photographer from Tajikistan studying in TRNC.

How have your priorities changed since you attended the GIKAD workshop? 

Gikad has motivated and encouraged me to go further. For example, prior to the workshop, I used to have dreams, now I see them as goals to be achieved.

A great moment of learning, sharing, and re-strategizing at the GIKAD event

Since the workshop, what are you doing now?

I have decided to apply to a master degree abroad. This is my main focus now.

What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur/ a woman?

Culture and societal expectations may affect you negatively. Nevertheless, one should accept such situations as challenges to be tackled. 

What was your take-home message after the workshop?

My take home message was to work towards becoming an entrepreneur and own a business instead of working for someone else. 

Light: A driven young entrepreneur from Nigeria pursuing higher education in TRNC. She is an Occupational Therapist and the queen of suya amongst other hats that she wears.

How have your priorities changed since you attended the GIKAD workshop? 

I’m more focused on me and the things that matter most to my well-being and mental health. I pick my battles, speaking up more for injustice around me in my little space and walking away from things that stress my peace. Additionally, I’m putting better structures for sustainability in my business. 

Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting your business?

Well, I would say I got more additional knowledge to add to what I already know. Luckily, I have a business mentor who guided me when I wanted to start my business coupled with seminars like GIKAD, that I had attended before. 

How do you define success?

Most will define it as achieving a set goals and target. Success to me is a journey, not a destination. I would like to define it as setting and achieving my goals, reviewing and repeating the process over again. 

Since the workshop, what are you doing now?

Since GIKAD I’ve been focused on my business more so that school is on holiday. GIKAD was a transformative opportunity for me. I came back refreshed and all fired up, putting into my business and general life the tips shared with us.

What are some of the daily habits that keep you focused?

My faith in God.  Praying, studying the Word of God and listening to uplifting messages 

Mental Exercises and intentionally taking rest breaks.

What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur/ a woman or anything you wish to add? 

As an entrepreneur, one of the challenges I face is pushing out the right content/ products for each season. I’ve come to discover a lot with my business. There was a season where customers wanted just meat (suya) and then another time they wanted suya with food. As much as it’s a challenge, my team and I are learning to decipher what package applies at different times so we stay relevant in this space. 

What was your take-home message after the workshop? 

Nothing happens by itself- I have to fight for what I want to see happen. Surround myself with women who support me in and out of the business settings, women who can vouch for me and mention my name in a room full of opportunities as an entrepreneur. Moving forward, I will also be that type of woman to others.

Never take no for an answer. I will do what I need to do while ensuring that I don’t tread on other people as I push forward to reach my goals. 

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