10 April, 2014

Mini Expo offers boost to Islamabad’s Young Entrepreneurs

(Published in Pakistan Observer on 9 Apr. 2014)

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Many people dream of starting a business of their own, however small, but for most that just remains the dream as the unpredictable life of an entrepreneur scares them away. But there are some passionate souls, who took that leap of faith and ultimately live their dreams.
Passion is exactly what impelled the some 16 young entrepreneurs to set up booths to display and sell their creative creations at Mini Expo recently held at Minerva House in Islamabad. Delightfully decorated stalls featured a variety of products including brilliant crafts and floral decorations, chic jewelry and accessories, novel home décor items, modish outfits as well as homemade food.

With an aim to boost self-starters, the Mini Expo 2014 was organized by Minerva, a social youth enterprise, to encourage small scale and home based entrepreneurs who had been marketing digitally only. “This Expo offers a platform to step out of their comfort zones, to reach a wider and real-time audience, to give them chance to explore the market, face the competitors, and go home with a great deal of learning” said Minerva’s CEO Sana Khalid explaining the purpose behind Mini Expo.

Small businesses owners at the ‘The Mini Expo 2014 - Your Brand Story’ not only introduced their brand names but also the struggles, successes, and people behind the brands. Offering classy designer clothing at affordable prices, Sabeen Siddiqui found the expo “a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to learn, earn and interact.” Sabeen, who had been previously working as business analyst, opted to explore avenues of creativity instead and initiated her brand, Dhanak Rung, in March 2012.

One of the stalls decorated with detailed and gorgeous henna artwork, on various products including candles, mugs, photo frames, fascinated every visitor at the expo. The proud owner of this lovely booth was Shehla Altaf, who has been offering unique henna art products under the brand name of Fashion EJ for the last four years. Glovvies was one creative booth at the Expo that offered funky knitted and cross stitch products including gloves, pouches, scarves, socks as well as decorations.

Hina Qamar, a teacher by profession, started off her creative journey of making and sharing quilling (decorative paper art form) in 2013 after winning an online art contest. “I wish that this wonderful form of art called quilling would flourish in Pakistan and I believe MadOzziee can make it happen” said a hopeful Hina who is marketing quilling products as well as tools that are not available in Pakistan.

The total turnout of the Mini Expo was around Rs 220,000 with Envy You (jewelry and accessories) Alif (clothing), Manriqen (jewelry) being the top three sellers. “Sale, however, is a secondary objective as the expo is about learning to face the customers and competitors at once. This learning would help the home-based entrepreneurs to identify their weak spots to come up with improved products” Sana Khalid explained.