Meet Anowara Shuley: Sewing Fabrics and Reaping Success

By Meagan Rees, Youth Business International

Meet Anowara Shuley: Sewing Fabrics and Reaping Success

Anowara Shuley is challenging traditional beliefs, empowering destitute women and educating the poor. Following a family dispute which left her destitute, she embarked on a self-funded tailoring course. At the age of 24 she launched her business, Shawon Hosto Shilpo, producing fashion and handcrafted products for sale in Dhaka in Bangladesh.

However, due to a lack of finance, her business could not grow. YBI member B’YEAH was willing to help: a $1,875 start-up loan and mentoring support has seen Shawon Hosto Shilpo (named after her son) blossom into a business employing 6 full-time and 160 part-time staff (during festive seasons like Eid, the number can more than double), and boasting an annual turnover of $18,000.

‘I was determined to overcome these obstacles and achieve my goal’

Anowara grew up in a small Bangladeshi town in a family struggling to make ends meet. Tradition often dictates that girls marry young and focus solely on domestic matters. Anowara also married young and had children. But a rift with her husband’s family left her almost penniless.

After selling some of her remaining possessions, Anowara enrolled in a tailoring course. A situation of desperation turned into one of determination as she took her craft to women in the neighbourhood, making them shalwar kamiz sets (traditional dresses) which received glowing reviews. In addition, she distributed advertising leaflets and networked in the community to increase her and her products’ profile.

Networking gave her a foot in the door with a local boutique. However, she had to brainstorm and persevere to improve the quality of her products to meet client satisfaction. Anowara’s determination was rewarded when the boutique placed several orders with her – a significant first step in the competitive market.

Today she receives orders from boutiques and supermarkets. Her business produces 8,500 items (samples and her designs) per year ranging from traditional garments to baby dresses and cushion covers. The rapid expansion of her business has led to her training and employing 160 part-time and 6 full-time employees. Anowara provides training and employment for several destitute women from her neighbourhood and enables many married women to earn an income and expand their skills while working from home.

She also counsels employees experiencing personal difficulties; refers workers to B’YEAH for support; and allows flexible work hours enabling employees to enrol in education courses. In addition, Anowara has helped three women start their own ventures, and she has opened a literacy centre in her home where she teaches the elderly and impoverished.

B’YEAH has called Anowara a “star entrepreneur” from a business and social commitment perspective. “Her devotion and perseverance towards her work is extremely inspirational. Everyone can see her motivation to do better every day, and she has become a role model for many women in her community.”

Anowara has been recognised by Youth Business International (YBI) for her business success and contribution to society. She received a ‘Highly Commended’ mention in the Women Entrepreneur of the Year category for the 2013 YBI Young Entrepreneur Awards.

Q&A with Anowara Shuley:

Q: What businesses inspire you?

A: My aunt was my first inspiration. She operated a similar business in a remote area of Jamalpur and supported her. She also inspired and gave paid work to other women who could help support their families.

Q: What do you enjoy most about running your business?

A: I enjoy giving training to my new workers, apprentices and any trainees, and I enjoy developing new designs.

Q: Where do you see yourself and your business in 12 months’ time?

A: I see myself having a decorative shop in a lucrative commercial location selling my own goods.

Q: Why do you feel that so many entrepreneurs’ businesses struggle to take off?

A: All young entrepreneurs, especially women, have to confront so many obstacles – from family to several other social and economic barriers. Many persevere and try and fight the odds, but many struggle and fail to overcome these challenges.

Q: What does it mean to you to be regarded as one of the top young entrepreneurs in the world?

A: It is beyond my imagination. I used to be an introverted person. Over the years my business has flourished within community, and it is expanding, which I hardly imagined in my wildest dreams.

Q: What piece of advice would you pass on to young entrepreneurs?

A: I always advise aspiring young entrepreneurs to focus on their own potential and not become intimidated by others’ businesses which are potentially doing better. Get skills training and work in a business to gain practical knowledge and experience so that they can run a business independently, be familiar with the business community/network, and empower their employees and inspire them to give their best.

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