Starting off as journalists about 25 years ago Najia Siddiqui, founder and chairperson of ADORN (Artisans Development Online Retail Network), and Sohema Rehan of Hajra Textiles have successfully established themselves as entrepreneurs, working to uplift local craft, textile and women artisans. While both handle their respective brands and thriving businesses, the duo have been getting together to organise ‘Open Houses’ with a group of female entrepreneurs twice a year. These events are a platform to showcase the work of female entrepreneurs that is cost effective and increases every one’s customer base.
“We encourage all participants to invite their guests so other exhibitors also benefit from the footfall,” tells Najia, a graduate from the prestigious Wellesley College, Massachusetts. “The response is always tremendous and exceeds everybody’s expectations. In two days, we have had more visitors and customers than exhibitions that are held at public arenas on a much bigger scale. Not only on spot sales are good, but, they are also a good way of meeting other potential clients who appreciate the hard work done by small businesses,” she adds.
The most recent event by the two best friends was held earlier this month and got together a diverse group of entrepreneurs: Bina Ali of Artel, specialising in clay crafts, Sukaina Abbas of Enchante Silver Jewellery; Zehra Naseem Haque of Emblème Shoes; Fatima and Sundus Khurshid from the recently launched Kiran Foundation; Sabah Ali of TR Designs working with decoupage home products; Erum Adnan of Akasi with hand painted fabrics; Shaheen Khan of Khanz working with local crafts to produce modern, readymade outfits; Sehar Faisal of M&E Kitchen and a group of women from Integrated People - an entrepreneurial venture of Kiran Foundation focusing on generating employment opportunities for women from Lyari.
The response all of them got at the open house is tremendous which is very encouraging to new and small businesses. That said, on spot sales are not the sole purpose of the events. The events also serve as a platform for reaching out to potential customers, brand awareness and marketing one’s products. Not only sales at the events are good for most brands, they also get to expand their reach and learn a lot in the process. They are open to all but generally are frequented by females who are interested in good quality and unique items that are not as accessible at commercial retail outlets, generally.
All the brands showcasing their work have been established by women who started working from their respective homes. Word spread amongst family and friends and that’s how all brands grew and established their identities.