WISE Profile: Afnan and Rina Ismaelia
From Beit Eba, Nablus, Afnan, 29, and Rina, 23, are a dynamic coffee roasting duo, and two of our returning businesswomen from cycle one’s Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) for our phase two project, Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE).
As women living in conservative Beit Eba, they were told that teaching would be the most suitable job for a woman, so Rina and Afnan both completed their undergraduate degrees in early childhood education and elementary education, respectively. Though Rina liked her major, Afnan did not and instead yearned to do something else with her life. The idea of starting their own coffee roasting company began with their brother, who roasted beans and worked with coffee. This sparked their interest and as they learned more they knew they wanted to become coffee roasters. Their fairly nascent project, which began in March 2010, has not come without its challenges. In Palestine, coffee roasting is a male dominated field, which can make dealing with predominantly male roasters and sellers difficult for Afnan and Rina at times.
At Mihbash Coffee, Afnan and Rina grind their coffee by hand. This is an extremely slow and tiring task, but they do what they have to in order to make sales and expand their brand. The unique concept of Mihbash Coffee is to serve coffees with different flavors, such as hazelnut, ginger, orange and so on that also have natural medicinal remedies for illnesses. Until now, they have been unsuccessful in finding investors, but if the opportunity arises in the future they hope to be able to buy an automatic grinder and rent space to set up a coffee shop and sell coffee in bulk as well.
Fully supported by their mother and brother, Afnan and Rina work tirelessly to promote their company. Without their own space, they grind their coffee and sell from home, taking their business one step at a time and patiently working for success.
They listed the following as the top three areas of growth from the start of FWEN in 2010 until now:
1. Boldness / willingness to take risks 2. Greater confidence in business discussions and transactions 3. Taking on more responsibility
Their advice for budding entrepreneurs is:
If you believe in your project you should do your best to achieve what you want. You should not allow the first obstacle you face to stop you.
Kudos to the Ismaelia sisters for continuing to work hard to achieve their business goals! We will keep you posted on their progress this year with the help of WISE.
-Samin Samin is the Program Coordinator for Women’s Empowerment Programs.