Hailing from a small city in Yemen, Fatma is a 45-year-old mother of four. She dreams of starting a bustling pastry shop in Istanbul, similar to the one she owned back in Yemen – the one she had to shutter and flee.
“There is no electricity in Yemen anymore, because of the war. There were no customers, no orders. I had to close the shop,” she said.
“My culture didn’t accept me because I wanted to stand up and work for myself and start my own business,” Fatma recalled, but she defied social norms because she saw a need for shop like hers: one that offered specialty cakes from a clean, hygienic store.
Now in Istanbul, Fatma wants to restart her business. Enter: the LIFE Project.
“The LIFE Project mentors me and gives me direction,” she explained from the LIFE Food Enterprise Center in Istanbul.
Fatma joined the inaugural cohort of entrepreneurs for four months of incubation, during which she got a crash course in food entrepreneurship and navigating the regulatory environment in Turkey. “Yes, investors can give me money, but I didn’t know where to begin, where to start in Istanbul. I want to integrate into the Turkish market,” she said.
Fatma has appreciated the technical advice the LIFE Project provides, plus the instant feedback on the desserts she makes. Baking her cakes and other desserts in the LIFE FEC kitchen means she can taste test her products on whoever’s around – and that’s how she landed her first Turkish client!
Her next challenge is getting the word out to a broader customer base: “Marketing is very important here. It is the difference between learning a new culture and not.”
And that cultural integration will be crucial to Fatma’s success. That’s why she’s glad to be working alongside food entrepreneurs from Turkey and other refugee and migrant communities.
Now, Fatma is focused on getting the legal and technical support she needs to set up her bakery.
By: Nikta Khani