By Pirah Aijaz
Bushra Ali is a social Entrepreneur. Her ventures "Kitchen On Mission" and "Baazyaft", have been running successfully for some time. Shes a Master multi-tasker, who juggles her multifarious roles pretty well. Behind each of Bushra’s, initiatives is the yearning to make a difference and solve as many problems as she can.
Let’s learn about her journey, her successes, failures, and learning...
Bushra, lets start from the beginning.. What was schooling like, for you?
Well, I completed my schooling in UAE. I am a woman with a diverse educational background. I did a diploma in Fashion Designing from Steps College, Lahore. I graduated from Punjab University, where I was a class topper and from where I also earned an MBA in Banking and Finance.
Could you please tell us about your venture “Kitchen On Mission”. What’s your idea behind this?
After emergence of Covid-19, I could not continue with my clothing brand, but those who know me, know that I am very enterprising.
So we had two chauffers at home, we had to relieve them, as our needs changed during the Pandemic but I wanted to hold on, to them. That is, when my 12 yrs. old son came up with an idea, that we could start selling home-cooked food and retain our current chauffers as delivery men. He pledged to help in marketing and sales.
In this way, we changed the roles of our employees, made them into riders and laid the foundation of a new business. Initially, we started with only two dishes per day and now we have almost 20 dishes in the menu, purely based on customer demand. When the business expanded, we made a commercial kitchen at home, engaged more employees and started corporate sampling.
Now, I have 7 employees with me, and we try to employ deserving females and in future, plan to employ transgenders also.
You are a project leader and managing director of the Baazyaft, a company with a unique name and approach. We would love to know more about it.
It is an Urdu/ Persian word which means rebirth/recycle. It aims to provide livelihood to the most neglected community of Pakistan - the Transgenders. Its mission is to use fabric waste, which otherwise goes in landfill, putting the environment at stake.
It is based on triple bottom line approach of: People – Planet – Profit for People. Thus, we will be using textile waste to manufacture jewelry, stationery and other decoration items and sell it through social media platforms.
It took us 8 months of rigorous effort, to make this project functional with the support of Seed Ventures/ British Council, Akhuwat Foundation, Fountain House, STEP Institute of Art and Design, Texlynx and other textile companies. We have started our production facility in Fountain House. The seed money we received, has been invested in procurement of machines and other stitching accessories also material and stipends during the training. Without reasonable sale volume, it is expected that the project can only continue for few months with the remaining funds.
What are your strategies for managing both ventures?
No special strategies in fact! I have to manage three things: family, Baazyaft and Kitchen on Mission. There was a time that everyone said you have to choose one because it’s not possible to look after both with your family. I took time to think on it and came back with the decision that I will keep the two ventures as both have employees, who earn their income through them, so I can’t choose one over another. Instead, I have to build a strong motivated team and involve them in decision making.
What are the milestones you have achieved so far while managing ‘Baazyaft’?
There is still much to be done, but I am happy we were able to provide skills to 9 transgenders who didn't even know the ABCs of stitching, and 8 of them are working with Baazyaft and earning income now. Additionally, they are learning marketing and selling skills, which would make it easier for them, to start their own brand in the future, if they wish to do so.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, you worked in banking sector. Why did you leave your job?
The culture of long work hours made it impossible for me to continue my career in banking after I got married. And that’s the reason, I decided to leave the job.
Why did you choose entrepreneurship?
I realized that doing a job, I couldn’t make the most of my creativity, besides, I had to move according to the organization and their timings, growth was slow as well.
Most importantly, when I started my journey as an entrepreneur - business meant a way of making money and becoming independent but soon I realized its much more. It gives me inner peace and satisfaction that the most marginalized community is earning money because of our efforts. And for this ‘cause’ I have devoted myself, as a Social Entrepreneur.
What challenges did you face during the beginning of your entrepreneurship?
At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, for me, the biggest challenge was networking. Then the fact, that as an entrepreneur, you need to be an all-rounder as you don’t have enough resources to hire a team, initially.
Also, when I started my clothing brand 10 years back, I started big, that made me realize, that when you are starting off, it is better to start small and then move towards growth/expansion, once you have started generating income. First off, the focus should be on sustainability.
What are the benefits you believe entrepreneurship has for Pakistani women?
There are lots of benefits - I am a living example! As an entrepreneur, you just need an idea & the ‘will to go on’ and you can do anything. I didn’t give up and continued to struggle after leaving my job, wrapping up my clothing brand. Ultimately, I formed my two current ventures. So, if you have a will, you can do anything, especially if it is for a good ‘cause’; Allah swt opens up, the road to opportunities.
As a female, you will face lots of negativity when you start especially, when it’s a different idea but when you become successful, the same people will be standing with you.
Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs know what's best for them. Find your life's purpose first. Once you know the purpose, align it with your business goal. This will keep you motivated over the long term. You shouldn't look back once you've made a decision in life, especially if you're a woman. Staying focused, is the key to success. There is absolutely no way back! Each problem has a solution. We just have to be strong, take every challenge as a challenge, and prove ourselves by our actions rather than words. Keep dreaming and keep moving forward!