Paving the way for other women entrepreneurs...

By Sara Danial
Tue, 11, 22

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is observed on November 19 every year, to celebrate the contribution of women entrepreneurs towards economic growth. In this regard, You! talks to four notable Pakistani entrepreneurs who share their struggles and road to success with our readers...

Paving the way for other women entrepreneurs...

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a day spearheaded by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization to celebrate and support women in business worldwide is celebrated on the 19th of November, every year. It is a day to acknowledge, support and celebrate the invaluable contribution of women business leaders and entrepreneurs towards economic growth and development. Notably, women have had a long history of being entrepreneurs. Since the 19th century, they have been breaking barriers and paving the way for other boss females. From running home-based businesses to scaling large teams, women have been breaking glass ceilings along the way.

In this regard, we have highlighted a few notable individuals. All of their empires are led by some of this generation’s most talented female entrepreneurs. Everyone has a backstory though and here’s how these game-changers got their start in the game.

While everything looks successful and glamorous with these women, all of us do realise that women must struggle with diverse challenges in business, especially when they are enterprising it. Here are some of the challenges the top Pakistani female entrepreneurs witnessed – and how they overcame them. And what set them apart. They have proven to the business industry, time and again, that they have what it takes to win as a driving force in their respective fields.

‘It is better to be your own boss’ – Erum Masood

Business Consultant, PR and Marketing Specialist, Mentor, and Philanthropist, Erum Masood spearheads marketing and business strategies for companies, start-ups, and small-medium enterprises (SMEs). She has worked in the UK for more than 25 years and has diverse experience in working in the international market. With exceptional entrepreneurial skills, she has mentored the youth, especially in the South Asian Region. Her experience in the media and PR has been a lifelong journey that is worth celebrating. “Leaving a comfortable and successful position and starting my own business was the scariest thing then and seems even now! The first challenge I had to face was to convince my parents as they did not support my decision. They thought I would not make any money and would end up spending my savings. That is exactly what I did but it was better than asking people to invest in your vision. The constant challenge is the changing patterns of the business world. The struggle for many businesswomen is the emotional baggage they carry, domestic pressure, a non-supportive husband, and the societal repercussions,” she shares.

Erum Masood
Erum Masood

When she returned to Pakistan in 2017, her experience was both inspiring and challenging. Her prime focus was to empower her son and due to that, she developed an interest in educating the youth. She has facilitated nine start-ups since 2017 to become independent and successful. She also offers training courses to aspiring entrepreneurs, encouraging them to start and operate their businesses successfully, and has provided training to 30 start-ups that are now constantly increasing due to her committed mentorship and business experience. PINE Global is her brainchild that provides training, and networking opportunities to young entrepreneurs.

‘The Boss Women’ campaign is a major feather in her cap. It is a platform that provides an economic environment and a safe space for women of all backgrounds to attain appropriate training, so they may branch out toward financial independence. Massively necessary for Pakistan, the focus remained on training women as entrepreneurs. Furthermore, she has trained over 500+ women and approximately mentored more than 600 young people since 2016, in this ongoing process. She also encouraged the creative mind set of budding entrepreneurs at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture in Karachi. Here she realised that creative entrepreneurial skills should be introduced and developed into the curriculum under the title ‘Fortune 101’.

As a lead consultant for Women Economic Entrepreneurship and working as an adviser with the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network since 2014, she has attended various conferences and summits that support and train women economically, initiated by the Commonwealth Entrepreneurship Training Program. Her latest project as the Consultant for the Women Economic Entrepreneurship Training aims to empower more than 300 women in Karachi – Pakistan. Erum believes the participants who will be trained in this program will benefit by learning business skills that will contribute to a sustainable business model.

Erum believes that the way forward is to empower women through economic entrepreneurial training programs and enhance their skills for sustainable economic growth globally. She further advises, “Entrepreneurship is the future of work, and I as an entrepreneur, believe that by empowering start-ups and young women entrepreneurs, we create a strong economic and financial society. It is better to be your own boss!”

‘A robust support network is essential for entrepreneurial success’ – Maliha Bhimjee

Maliha Bhimjee is a partner in Intimate Fashions/Triumph, retail. IFG is the oldest and largest manufacturer of undergarments in Pakistan. It has two local brands, IFG and Poppy, as well as an imported German brand, Triumph. Recently, they celebrated 50 years of both IFG and Triumph in Pakistan.

But it is always difficult to gather seed capital for any business, so how did IFG manage? Being a family-owned business, and as a manufacturer and distributor, Bhimjee faced no hindrance in generating funds for the first Intimate Fashions outlet, exclusively for women. There are now 6 retail stores and over 1000 dealers that stock their products all over the country.

Maliha Bhimjee
Maliha Bhimjee

It’s a well-known fact that when women tend to re-invest their income, which gives rise to incremental income to give back to their communities. “Pakistan urgently needs to encourage more women entrepreneurs to explore new avenues of livelihood generation and contribute towards economic development. There is a pressing need to mobilise women’s chambers of commerce, NGOs, and vocational institutes to offer training and workshops to budding women entrepreneurs,” she elucidates.

These training workshops could teach budding women entrepreneurs the necessary business, financial, marketing, and digital skills to launch successful business ventures leading to self-reliance, economic empowerment and income perpetuity.

Talking about the difficulty women face in undertaking an entrepreneurial career, Maliha says that there is no denying that women entrepreneurs face a long list of challenges that their male counterparts do not. They are often victims of social and cultural taboos and gender inequality. “However, the gravest challenge is a lack of funding because banks and other institutions are reluctant to lend finance to women entrepreneurs,” she interjects.

She opines that overcoming this issue will involve getting more female investors to support one another. “We must encourage women entrepreneurs by offering training and support to their businesses, arranging micro financing, promoting them on social media, and mentoring budding entrepreneurs and patronising them at all platforms. A robust support network is essential for entrepreneurial success, combined with advisors and mentors to promote professional growth.”

‘Failure is a big part of success’ – Shahnaz Ramzi

Parent entrepreneurs have twofold responsibilities towards their businesses and their families; finding ways to dedicate time to both is key to achieving that elusive work-life balance. Shahnaz Ramzi, a successful entrepreneurial woman, ensured that she got the best of both worlds. “It involved a lot of adapting and multitasking because I knew that if I had begun working in the corporate world on a full-time basis, I would have had to make a lot of choices I didn’t want to make back then. Of course, I did compromise on a lot of things but in that situation, I decided what was best for me. So you are the best judge of yourself. So I always worked on my own terms. I started off working from home as a freelance journalist, at a time when WFH (work from home) was not even a concept. But once, my kids were slightly independent and got used to the idea of me not being available for a certain period of time, I began going out for a limited number of hours and scheduled my appointments accordingly. I was also living in a joint family so that support network was always there. With 11 years of hectic social life, we made sure to always sit together for family time and that goes on till today, now with my own grandchildren. Of course, with time, I have delegated a lot to my son and daughter-in-law to support me. But it has all worked out well for me,” she elaborates.

Shahnaz Ramzi
Shahnaz Ramzi

Failure is a big part of success. When asked how she copes with failure, expanding on the same tangent, Ramzi states, “Of course, failure is a very real possibility of any entrepreneurial venture. But I was never afraid – whether I will be as successful as I was in my job; or whether I reap the benefits as soon as I invested. Without much thought, I started off on a big scale, despite being advised against it. I am not an outright risk-taker, but I do take calculated risks – because I didn’t want my venture to have a homely start-up feeling. I was thinking big, on a professional level, and so I started big. And it all fell in place as I got international clients, covering huge events.” So according to her, it is not good to dwell on negativity, even if you do face some failures. The tricky part is to stand back up, stronger and more resilient. She advises women to not let their insecurities keep them from dreaming big. She encourages women to work through the moments of self-doubt that every business owner faces and not wait for perfection before starting their business. “Don’t cloud yourself with negativity. Don’t be myopic with a small vision. Failure should not be viewed as an excuse for relinquishing your goals. When your plans don’t work out, or if you make a costly decision, it is your experience, not your failure,” she adds.

‘Believe in yourself’ – TU Dawood

TU Dawood hails from a business family, and so business acumen comes naturally to her. She is driven by it. It is in her DNA. However, something that she emphasise on has little to do with business and more to do with social impact. “The communal, consensus-building qualities encouraged in young girls can leave women immensely empowered,” she asserts.

While talking about the challenges TU Dawood highlights, “There are various challenges you face as an entrepreneur, whether it is a product or a service you are offering or building a loyal support community around yourself. The latter is a more important factor in entrepreneurial success - maintaining that community and quality. Then there are unexpected occurrences such as Covid-19, floods, current economic situation, etc.”

Tara U Dawood
Tara U Dawood

How difficult was it to defy social expectations and carve a niche for yourself? “It is always difficult to do something different,” she elucidates. “At the same time, the more aligned you are, the better the result, and the more right it feels and appears. Doing something you love and believe in, is when nothing feels burdensome. And so your work becomes your passion. I believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations. ”

As TU Dawood spearheads ‘Educate a Girl’ programme, she educates and empowers girls across the globe in diverse fields like entrepreneurship, media, journalism, coding, finance, climate and environment, soft skills and many more.

*Sara Danial is a writer with keen interest in economics and women issues.