Creativity calling: Women entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs in the capital have built thriving businesses based on their hobbies.

Maha Kamal August 19, 2011


Nabia Mehmud puts her final touches on a cake that is her canvas. Using a vivid palette, she creates an edible replica of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. As the founder of Sugar ‘n’ Crumbs, Nabia is one of the many young women in Islamabad using their artistic talents to create a boom in the country’s home businesses.

“My mother instilled the love of baking in me from the age of eight. As a child, I adored the sweet aroma of chocolate cupcakes wafting through the kitchen window”, reveals Mehmud. “While experimenting with recipes last year, I thought of differentiating my products from other cakes which are available in bakeries, and I came across the marvels of sugar art and discovered how it can add a creative zing to cakes.”

With ideas as diverse as henna tattoos to decorative boxes, women in Islamabad have been successfully exploring different fields of creative entrepreneurship.

Meenah Tariq, a graduate from Fast-NUCES explores the intricate designs of henna (mehndi) tattoos with her business, HennArt. “I’m a very filmi person by nature, and henna art is a form of art that is very traditional, yet sensuous and dramatic. I’ve always loved getting henna done applied. Sadly, there was no one in my family who could do it, so I would have to do it for myself,” she says.

“I researched online and found all these amazing designs which were more like paintings on skin using henna. This really fascinated me, and with a lot of practice, I was finally good enough to gain customers who wanted to have henna applied,” Tariq explains.

What started off as a hobby, took shape when a local salon asked Tariq to be a part of its chaand raat festival. She recalls, “It didn’t go too well, I was reprimanded for my style of mehndi, which is intricate and takes time to apply. At salons they mostly put Arabic henna which takes less time. But the customers were pleased and asked for my contact information. A few months later, I got my first call for bridal henna.”

Introducing innovative ideas in small businesses, these entrepreneurs make use of social media for marketing. A talent in photography and her MBA final year project on “social marketing and its impact on businesses” inspired Rammal Mehmud to take up her passion professionally. Photograph sharing website Flickr helped her business grow. “Flickr opened new avenues for me as I was contacted by a publishing house in North America interested in purchasing one of the my photographs. My sister and I pressed that the copyrights remain with me and I signed the deal. Last summer, the book I, Emma Freke written by Elizabeth Atkinson was published.” Mehmud adds, “My business sped up in Sept 2010, when I decided to start a blog about my business and client meet-ups.”

Ayesha Zafar-Kashif, the owner of Ribbons N Bows has a similar story, where her academic interests merged with her artistic talent.”My father is very creative and loved to do crafts and painting, so as a child, I took inspiration from him and always had an interest in creating things. I started making boxes and pouches and my family liked the stuff I had made and wanted me to make it for them too. They would give presents in those boxes to people, who in turn would ask them if they could order them as well.”

“I set up Ribbons N Bows in June 2009, and introduced it on Facebook. I started getting orders in the first month. I started on a very low scale, where I designed and made all the boxes, now, depending on the scale of the order, I have four to five workers helping me assemble the boxes”, she says.

ENNZ Jewellery, Nosheen Aamir’s collection of bold cut gems was inspired by her love of sculpture. “Jewellery seemed to be the most aesthetically gratifying expression for my creative instincts. I drew scores of designs which got a lot of kudos from my teachers, and friends encouraged me to go professional,” explains Aamir.

“ENNZ is unique because it’s jewellery that’s a medium of emotional expression for females. It gives them an opportunity to break out of the stereotypical fragility associated with them, and allows them to wear boldly cut gems in bright colours. This, I believe, is the symbol of the empowered feminism we have discovered in the 21st century,” she says.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.