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.”