Samar, Unlikely Entrepreneur?

“In this community, being a woman is very difficult. When I opened my shop everybody looked at me as a woman who is not able to do anything. I proved them wrong.”

Read more
Samar Khan, 36 Yemen Food Industry Storyline

The people in Yemen are facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, coupled with the largest cholera outbreak in history, with over half the population lacking access to water.  Not ideal conditions for running a successful enterprise, but that’s exactly what one woman is doing.  This is the story of Samar.

36-year-old Samar Khan is from Aden in the South of Yemen. She is a single mother of three who wants to follow her passion and offer her children a decent life.  Samar knows only too well the challenges that come with raising a family during war.  She has been the breadwinner for her children – seventeen-year-old twin daughters and her twelve-year-old son – for ten years.

Before the war, Samar worked as a secretary for various companies, and she had a small shop with her brother where she used to make fast food and pastries. This would meet her and her family’s needs including rent, school fees, bills, and their meals. She was able to single-handedly take care of her family and life was manageable. Until the conflict arose.

Samar explains: “When the war started, everything started to fall apart. Life has become very difficult. I am constantly worried about my children. I don’t allow them to go out. Before the war I used to always take my children out, but now we barely go out. I don’t feel safe at all. I feel like anything could happen any time.”

As war was breaking out raids on her shop meant her main assets for cooking were stolen and intermittent electricity meant she couldn’t keep her produce cool.  Finally, her shop was completely destroyed in an explosion. She lost everything and could no longer pay her rent and bills. Her son stopped going to school as Samar was unable to pay the fees.

When Samar applied for an opportunity to engage in a women’s economic empowerment project run by CARE and funded by H&M Foundation, she was able to pursue her ambitions for the business. Through the project, Samar received training as well as a start-up loan for her own pastry business.

Despite living in a war zone, Samar runs a successful baking business

Samar has always been passionate about cooking and baking, a skill she learnt from her grandmother. She started making pastries at home and selling them in order to make some money.

Samar now has many customers and caters for weddings and special events, baking almost every day.  Her current profit enables her to pay for her children’s tuition fees, and to live a relatively stable life.

When things improve in Yemen, Samar plans to reopen her shop, as well as sell through various shop points in busy shopping areas. She also wants to complete an online baking course to improve her skills.

Despite the fact that Samar’s relationship with her father is fragile, she has heard from other family members that he is very proud of her achievements.

Samar concludes: “Starting this career was the proudest moment of my life because it really strengthened my belief that anything is possible if you put your heart into it.  Be strong and passionate, because hard work always pays off.”