Entrepreneurial skills take Pakistani girl to global workshop
Published: November 18, 2011
Gul selected for venture BLISS which educates, promotes girls hailing from lower economic strata. PHOTO: PROPAKISTANI
Two young girls from Pakistan took Pakistan’s name across the globe to the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
The institute annually unites 25 high-impact entrepreneurs, to live and work with 50 world-class mentors in order to pitch their ventures to over hundreds of investors in San Francisco and Boulder.
The fellows obtain legal advice and design consulting and form relationship with up to 20 investment funds and prepare to launch self-sustained, globally scalable ventures that could serve the needs of at least one million people.
One of the two local finalists, Saba Gul, is going to stay under the same roof with the other 24 fellows at the institute which is a mentor-intensive accelerator for budding entrepreneurs, founded in 2010.
Gul was selected for her venture BLISS (Business and Life Skills School), which educates and promotes entrepreneurship training for girls hailing from lower economic strata who work there along with acquiring education.
“BLISS educated girls with education while simultaneously lifting them out of poverty,” Gul says. “Before coming to BLISS, the girls used to spend 14 hours a day working at carpet looms, now they come to school, learn basic subjects along with embroidery and needlework.”
Gul added, “The embroidered fabric is finished into trendy handbags for sale in the global markets, the generated revenue goes back to the girls so that they can support their families while getting educated, so it’s a win-win!”
Gul said that she was troubled by the vast social disparities which were prevalent in Pakistan, her birth place. After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a computer science degree, she could contrast herself with millions of Pakistani girls who wouldn’t even get basic education.
“I firmly believe that the world cannot escape poverty if it does not harness the potential of the 600 million girls that live in the developing world today and the first step to it is to send these girls to school,” Gul insisted.
Gul said that the problem is too grave to be ignored.
The young entrepreneur said that she has partnered her venture with various online handbag retailers based in US and UK. She said a team of four MBAs from the MIT Sloan School were also devising a marketing strategy for her to launch the products in US.
Gul added that the board of advisors at BLISS comprises individuals coming from all walks of life.
“Unreasonable Institute helped me find new board members, strike valuable partnerships with retailers, and start discussions with funders,” Gul said.
“It taught me to not be afraid and to think big and never compromise. I am now part of a network of like-minded entrepreneurs,” she added gleefully.
Gul said that her enterprise has plans to launch a financial literacy and business curriculum for the girls enrolled in BLISS, which would enable them to participate in other parts of the chain, e.g. marketing.
“We are designing a new line of handbags, with assistance from students at the Naqsh School of Art in Lahore. We are also planning to expand our network to other cities,” Gul said.
Gul said that their venture enrolled 30 girls in Attock and hired local staff. “An attendance rate for the girls at these schools is now almost 90%,” she remarked. “Our first line of 65 handbags was launched in May 2011, and all of it was sold out. We are now struggling to meet the local and global demand for our handbags.”
As the American writer Joseph Campbell would say: “Follow your bliss”. Life is too short to spend it doing what you don’t love or feel passionately about.
A version of this post originally appeared on ProPakistani.