Women Entrepreneurs Take Flight

by Natasha Saufi

women receiving trainingMany women start businesses not because an opportunity presents itself but because of the need to provide for their families.

"UNDP’s “Entrepreneurial Skills: Empowering Rural Women” project aims to alleviate poverty in Terengganu and Kelantan and support low-income women entrepreneurs in the cottage food industry. Here Natasya Saufi writes about a young woman named Suri who is determined to forge her own path."

There are many, many stories that I could tell you of my women. I call them mine because they are like my children. I have the responsibility to guide them and get them to that next level. And as a mother to many children I have to ensure that there’s just a right balance so as not to smother them or lead them astray.

One woman in particular has become a true inspiration to me. She pushes me to give this project my all, especially during those crazy days when you’re running around like a headless chicken and you still have that full stack of work pending. Her name is Suri.

Kak Suri, a model entrepreneur

Kak Suri

Suri hails from Terengganu. She sells ‘gula melaka’ (palm sugar) in Marang. Marang is 45 minutes away and she travels 3 to 4 times a week to my workshops without fail and on time. If it rains she will hitch a ride if not she’d take the motorcycle. She’s always the girl sitting in front by always a bit shy and reserved. The two things that I that made Suri stand out from the rest, was her ‘gula melaka’ which is of the highest quality and the second was her eagerness in absorbing what information that was presented. I remember how determined she was in learning ICT even though her reading level was of a 9 year old which made it more difficult & frustrating for her but she persevered.

During the UNDP International Poverty Conference in December, I offered space for volunteers to promote their products and help sell their friends products with commission; on condition that they provide their own transportation & accommodation. No one from Terengganu volunteered except for Suri. Little did I know that Suri had not been to Kuala Lumpur for 17 years.

For two days Suri was brought from one place to another to promote her products. On the first day, she was shy and a little intimidated by the hotel and foreign guests. But by the day two, she was calling people to sample her products. Not only was she more confident but she could see for her self what product sold and what didn’t. She realised how much more she could earn by actually selling products her self rather then relying on the middle person.

Gula melaka productsGula melaka products

Last week, the project brought in Mydin (a local hypermarket) for a business matching session, and you will be happy to know that Suri’s ‘gula melaka’ was a hit! Soon we shall be seeing her products on Mydin shelves.

I hope to see Suri’s star rising to greater heights in the future. With her determination and hard work, God willing it shall.

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