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How This Entrepreneur in Pakistan is Achieving Her Goals and Paying It Forward



Seeda Begum, a single mom, runs her own business and teaches other women the tools they need to succeed.

Fifty-two-year-old Saeeda Begum from Rawalpindi in Pakistan started her handmade garment business Shining Little Stars for seven years, after her husband passed away. “I was facing financial crisis and so I started the business to support my home and my four children. I chose the garments business because I have expertise in this work and have always liked stitching clothes.”

The business specializes in smocked frocks, children’s ghararas (a type of flared pant) and ladies’ garments. Saeeda now employs up to six women, all of whom she has personally trained. “I am an artisan, I not only stitch, but also train my workers in this skill,” she says. “They take some work to their homes, but the stitching work is all done in my presence to ensure quality control.”

Saeeda has faced many challenges on her entrepreneurial journey. “It’s not easy for a woman to climb up the ladder and achieve what she desires. Because our society is male dominated, it is very difficult for women to work. When I first started going to market my products, the first offer I got was inappropriate,” she shares. “Being a single parent I have more responsibilities. Looking after the children, to look after their education, to fulfill all their needs and then to look after the business as well. Along with all of this one has to fulfill and abide by cultural norms,” Saeeda says.

“The majority of my problems were solved by just one click.”

COVID-19 also had a detrimental impact on Saeeda’s business. The training she received from the Ignite program, supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, could not have come at a more pivotal moment. “The most difficult time for me was during the COVID pandemic,” Saeeda says. “Initially I had a big [shop] setup, but after Corona I’ve shifted to this small building with lower rent. My business was closed for three months and there was very little income in comparison to my expenses.”

In mid-2021 Saeeda took part in Ignite training focused on skills and capacity building covering topics such as digitalization, financial literacy and management. Saeeda credits the trainings for saving her business. “I believe that if I had not taken these trainings and if I hadn’t adopted things that I learned through Ignite, then I wouldn’t have been able to save my business from great loss,” she says.

Saeeda has made changes based on what she learned during the training. “Before, I would spend all the money for household use without knowing how much I earned as profit or how much I’ve lost. Now I have a bank account and have started proper bookkeeping, so I am able to identify what is the income and what are the expenditures and how much I am able to save as revenue.”

Saeeda has also learned the benefits of using digital tools for her business finances and distribution. “I learned connectivity through WhatsApp and created an account on EasyPaisa (microfinance application) for receiving the money and used Bykea for delivery of the products. The majority of my problems were solved by just one click,” she says. “Before this I would be stranded in loans [to customers] for months and I was unable to receive money in time. But now I ensure I receive the money through these apps first and then I deliver them the final product. So now things are very easy for me.”

Reflecting on her successes to date Saeeda adds, “My biggest achievement is that my children are now well educated and have good jobs. Along with that I am running my own business in which I have trained and taught many women who are now able to generate a little income on their own.”

Saeeda’s future vision is to own her own shop, so she doesn’t have to sell through third parties or pay rent. For this, she hopes to take out a business loan, with support from the Ignite program, so that she can start working toward her dream. Saeeda is also heavily focused on supporting other women. “My vision is to make Shining Little Stars a platform where I can help other aspiring businesswomen who want to succeed but don’t have the market linkages,” she says. “I want women to be empowered so they can contribute to our country’s economy to make it prosperous.”

Find out more about Saeeda’s business, Shining Little Stars.

Saeeda Begum - Shining Little Stars

Saeeda from Pakistan runs a clothing business and is supported by CARE’s Ignite program. She talks about success in a male-dominated society and how she has improved her financial management and digital skills with CARE’s support.

A group of women stand together in the street, with the focus of the image on the woman in the front and center.

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