For women business entrepreneurs, any country in the world is a tough place to survive. From dealing with man dominance to working extra to set up identity, women entrepreneurs always face a tougher challenge to earn a place for themselves in the community of business leaders. Moreover, when it comes to a country like Pakistan, it is even bigger a challenge for the women who aspire to become successful businesspersons.
Pakistan is a developing country which has seen years of political instability since independence in 1947 and its economy is developing. A fairly populated nation, Pakistan finds itself among those nations that have the most biased outlooks against women. According to a United Nations report that came out ahead of the International Women’s Day this March, Pakistan has more than 99 percent of its people who have at least one bias against women, including the idea that men make better business leaders than women.
Against such a background, it is not easy for the country’s women to achieve success as entrepreneurs. Pakistan has seen one-woman prime minister till date in the late Benzir Bhutto. There have been other women who have made a mark in the field of politics, like former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar. But are there enough women faces in the country’s business landscape who have fast emerged as role models for others?
Saniya Waqar Shafi, a successful Pakistan businesswoman
Yes, there are. And one among them is Saniya Waqar Shaffi, the young owner of Sweet Affairs bakery in Gulberg, Lahore, one of Pakistan’s most historical cities. Pakistan’s population is almost equally divided along gender lines and that means if its women population can also make a mark, the country’s overall progress almost doubles. And with a large woman population, Saniya believes they are very much capable of challenging and overruling the traditional thinking and approach. She hence decided to become an example herself first.
Sweet Affairs started its journey as a boutique patisserie at the heart of Lahore in 2011 and has evolved as one the city’s best cafes with time. What has made Sweet Affairs a unique food business is the combination of the quality, taste and perfection that it offers. Today, it provides restaurant, bakery, cafe and exclusive catering services in three key locations in Lahore.
In 2013, Saniya, who was 23 then but determined to see herself as an accomplished entrepreneur, said at an event in Lahore that women entrepreneurs have come up as a strong driving force in today’s corporate world for they not only can equalize their duties of both motherhood and entrepreneurship but also feature in almost half of all business ventures. She said more than monetary incentives, the primary goal of the women entrepreneurs includes personal satisfaction and community development. She praised many of these women entrepreneurs saying they are educated and work in groups to pool business ideas and resources together to get better results.
Saniya proudly pointed out the fact that she was running Sweet Affairs with an aim to prove that women too can be successful and self-sufficient and like their male counterparts, can take confidence and happiness from what they do themselves and not just from the happiness of their married partners.
Saniya’s successful bakery business has indeed proved that with the right mentality and attitude, a positive result is inevitable, even for women entrepreneurs. Her success is all the more special since she has made heads turn in a society which is not the most conducive for women.
The chief executive officer of Sweet Affairs is now considering expansion of her business to franchising, ecommerce, home delivery and much more, her LinkedIn profile says.
What the Saniya story teaches aspiring women entrepreneurs:
There is a lot that young women entrepreneurs, who are aspiring to make it big, can learn from Saniya’s achievement. Here are some key lessons:
Thinking beyond the business, thinking big:
Saniya’s approach to her business is not just restricted to the success or failure of her own business. From her observations that Pakistan is a country that has a sizable woman population which can compete with the males, one can understand that she has a broad view about the economic prospects of her fellow Pakistani women. This makes it evident that she thinks about the well-being of the other women in her country. This is a true sign of a great entrepreneur.
Perseverance and hard work:
Saniya’s journey as an entrepreneur is an inspiring story. Her bakery business started as a limited one, but she gradually expanded it to make it one of Lahore’s top food joints. This says a lot about a woman entrepreneur who doesn’t operate in the developed world but in a society, which throws a lot of challenges towards women’s rise. Moreover, she is also thinking about diversifying her business more which proves that for a willing mind, no obstacle matters.
Drawing happiness for oneself:
When Saniya says that women are capable of drawing confidence and happiness from what they do and not remain content with the vicarious satisfaction over their spouse’s success, it shows the honest approach she has towards her work and career. She is not ready to remain satisfied with the success of another individual, even if that is her loved partner, and advises other women to think on similar lines. It shows the killer instinct she possesses to succeed as an entrepreneur, irrespective of the challenges that she faces as a woman entrepreneur.
Respecting other women business leaders:
By pointing out the fact that women are capable of balancing their roles as a mother and entrepreneur, Saniya proves that she harbors a respect for women entrepreneurs and this makes herself a business leader who can easily evolve into a role model for aspiring women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs, especially those from the developing world, need to realize that besides building their own fortunes, they also need to be empathetic towards other women who are trying to make it big and encourage them and also if possible, extend a helping hand towards them.
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