Opinions & People

WBN Tea Talk 2017

by Samar Al-Montser

The importance of advocating for women empowerment may sometimes be undermined or even misunderstood, especially among women themselves. At the WBN Tea Talk 2017, women entrepreneurs came together to share their stories in attempt to empower each other in their business journeys.

Despite modern societies progressive thinking about working women, women still face obstacles being entrepreneurs. Movements that aim at empowering women have increased over the years. However, organisations are still trying to empower women because the struggles are diverse. One of the reasons for these struggles is the pressure of living up to what is traditionally expected of women. Women, more often than not, are expected to fill in traditional roles of being a mother and maintaining a home to raise children. Though this may seem ideal, women can end up needing to support themselves and their families.

To address the need to support and ease the struggles of businesswomen, an initiative by the WIEF Foundation’s Businesswomen Network (WBN) was organised on the 27th of September 2017 in Flora Terrace, Malaysia. The WBN Tea Talk was an event exclusively designed to empower women entrepreneurs in their quest for success. Established in 2005, WBN enabled fledgling businesswomen to make positive economic contributions by providing access to resources and networking opportunities. To date, WBN has benefitted about 500 women from 36 countries through their various activities.

This year’s WBN Tea Talk brought together 30 women entrepreneurs from six countries to connect and inspire each other with their stories in an intimate setting with a guest speaker. Participants got the chance to meet and mingle with Datin Winnie Loo, who’s the founder and chief creative director of A Cut Above Group of salons and academy.

Datin Winnie Loo, Founder and Chief Creative Director of A Cut Above Group of salons and Academy.

She shared her inspiring journey with the women entrepreneurs. That afternoon, Datin Winnie shared her insights and answered many interesting questions by the participants. She also had a chance to demonstrate one of the quick and easy ways of styling hair in less than five minutes.

With her big on dreams approach, Datin Winnie advised other women entrepreneurs to dare to dream, and things will happen. However, she reminded that a dream is only possible, if one turns it into a reality. After a very moving talk with Datin Winnie Loo, the women entrepreneurs got to mingle with each other and share their stories.

Sharing their dreams
Muna Ibrahim, Sudan: One of the businesswomen at the WBN Tea Talk, was 47-year-old Muna. A divorcee and Sudanese mother of five who holds a child psychology degree from Sudan. She lived in Sudan all her life but then decided to seek a better future for her children elsewhere. She aspired to become independent so she pursued her passion of caring for kids. She saved some money and rented an area to open her nursery. In 2015, she started to run her nursery on weekdays. She wishes to start her own Quran-memorisation school that teaches other basic subjects like maths and English.

Muna believed women should have dreams of starting a business of their own. ‘Women deserve to have their dreams come true, as this helps improve their self-image and character. Most importantly, it makes them independent,’ she said.

Katarina Antusova, Slovakia: Originally from Slovakia, 37-year-old Katarina moved to Malaysia in 2005, originally for only six months to help her aunt in her business. After falling in love with a Malaysian man, she married and decided to settle in Kuala Lumpur.

While she looked for alternative treatments to help her mother’s back problem, she came across a book called The Journey. So, she contacted The Journey therapist and went for her first session two years ago. That was her beginning.

At the time, Katarina suffered from a disease called endometriosis. She said The Journey method healed her fast so she knew immediately what she wanted to do. She decided to go through the whole programme to become an accredited Journey practitioner. She believed she had to share one of the world’s most effective self-healing modality with others, as she has experienced it herself. She’s now a therapist for The Journey. She’s also a distributor of Cellise, a beauty product.

Nesiba Smajic

Nesiba Smajic, Bosnia and Herzegovina: One of the younger participants at the WBN Tea Talk was 26-year-oldNesiba from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was fortunate enough to grow up in a generation where her parents knew the value of empowering their children through education. After studying journalism in Bosnia, she came to Malaysia four years ago with the dream of learning about different cultures and customs. She graduated in the field of business but couldn’t bring herself to leave Malaysia so she leveraged on her international experience and multilingual capabilities.

With a friend of hers, Nesiba started running a small business which included a range of services to companies and individual customers. Their services trade and distribution plans, market research, business proposals and plans, accounting services and administrative support. Apart from that, she offered web and graphic design and digital marketing support.

She also aspires to grow her brand UniQbyIda digitally which currently operates in Malaysia and Bosnia, and is still in the beginning stages. It features unique and custom-made products from Bosnia, but her focus is to encourage young hijabis to stay strong despite stereotypes and social pressures. In addition, she’s a distributor of Maya Halal Nail Polishes, which is the first ever halal certified and wudu friendly nail polish.

Their inspirational words
At the WBN Tea Talk 2017, the ladies were delighted to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs who were similarly passionate about what they do. They took the opportunity to talk about their businesses as well as challenges, and this garnered huge support for each other. Their failures and successes inspired each one to push to do even more. They wished for more collaborations and future events like this to take place.

As a mother of five, Muna didn’t have much to pursue a career with but she advised women to start small even if their abilities are much greater. ‘Start, practice and learn, slowly you will go up the ladder and from there, experience will help in clearing up the details of your business. Be patient and work with what you have. Expand with time,’ Muna said.

Let’s face it, many young girls are not encouraged to start a business from a young age but some are. Nesiba said she always believed that women are meant to be entrepreneurs. ‘Seeing my mum perfectly managing her work, the household and kids taught me that women can do it all. However, most women shy away from it and that’s a mistake. Women should be leaders, entrepreneurs, women shouldn’t be intimidated by their societies we’re stronger than that,’ she said.

‘Start! Start small and build up, build as you grow and build as you fail. Very often we find ourselves demotivated after small shortcomings, but we shouldn’t fear progress, we shouldn’t fear growth. Embrace your aspirations, feed it! If God put it in you, it means you have what it takes to make it,’ Nesiba continued to advise aspiring women entrepreneurs.

Katarina encouraged women to take the challenge of becoming an entrepreneur because it is a chance to create something from nothing and a chance to turn passion and beliefs into business. Katarina advised to find the true meaning, purpose and deep fulfilment in one’s daily work and it will succeed. ‘It’ll be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face, but you’ll gain the experience you won’t find anywhere else,’ she ended.

30 Oct 2017
Last modified: 14 Nov 2017
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