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April 14, 2021

Pakistani chef Zahra Khan makes it to Forbes list

Sports

April 14, 2021

LONDON: Forbes has nominated UK-based Pakistani chef Zahra Khan among the world’s most impactful and game changing entrepreneurs.

Originally from Lahore, Zahra has made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe’s list in the retail and e-commerce category. Zahra founded Feya and Dyce cafes near the iconic Harrods and Selfridges retail stores in upscale part of Central London in Knightsbridge and Oxford Street after graduating from celebrity chef Gordan Ramsay’s culinary academy.

Zahra told The News: “At the age of 13 I was told to study sciences because I could not achieve a worthy career out of baking. I was repeatedly told that women are homemakers, only belonging in kitchens at home. I had fallen into a cultural stereotype; in Pakistan where I was born, women historically remain at a disadvantage due to cultural and religious barriers leading to setbacks like gender discrimination, unemployability and mental health issues.”

Zahra said she founded Feya cafe in Central London at the same time that she became a mother. She established and drove her business to success, increasing the team’s size from five to 30. “I have received 100 plus franchise applications from countries like UK, UAE, KSA, Qatar, Kuwait, Canada, and that too without any formal listing.”

During the pandemic, Zahra launched an initiative to empower women and reduce the gender gap, with 10 per cent of the profits from Feya’s retail line of chocolates, jams and teas funnelling into the cause. Each product carries its own unique message of empowerment, self-awareness and motivation developed by a team of female illustrators.

According to Zahra, Feya is on track to open new retail outlets in 2021. She added: “I am in the process of expanding Feya’s retail network and targeting further 25 sites outside UK via franchise agreements. By 2025, I am expecting to create 400 job opportunities for women and spread the message of empowerment: promoting UN’s Sustainability Development Goal 5’.”

Zahra claims she was the first and the only Pakistani woman to ever attend Gordon Ramsay’s Tante Marie Culinary Academy since its opening in 1954. She said: “Moving to the UK and pursuing an independent career came with significant challenges, which in turn became my motivation to combat

societal pressures and prove that women of any background can take professional leadership roles and empower other women, especially mothers.

“I feel incredibly proud to have established three eateries in the UK’s male dominated hospitality industry, whilst becoming a mother of two and battling postpartum depression. I believe that the success of the company, the global franchise and the stakeholders interests reflect the competencies of the company’s diverse 75 per cent female workforce — core of my business values and growth strategy.”

According to Forbes, there were tens of thousands of nominations and recommendations from industry experts and former Under 30 alumni were reviewed to make up a shortlist. The finalists were selected with the help of judging panel that included Russian ecommerce billionaire Tatyana Bakalchuk, founder of Wildberries, French jewelry entrepreneur Valerie Messika, and Pascar Sivam, founder and CEO of Danish watchmaker Nordgreen and 2019 30 Under 30 Europe alum.