I Have Found My Voice: Catching Up With Entrepreneur Jinan

TYO recently had the pleasure of catching up with Jinan, founder and owner of Needle and Thread micro-business. Jinan is a former WISE II program participant and will be joining us in the advanced track of the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs program. Jinan poses on her balcony with her handmade embroidered goods.

1.Tell us about your business

My micro-business, Needle and Thread, provides unique and handmade embroidered goods to people throughout Palestine. I make a variety of items like wall tapestries, wedding accessories, serving trays, tissue box covers and jewelry. I use diverse color combinations and make my products with only the highest quality thread. As a child, my mother, aunts, and sisters taught me this traditional Palestinian craft and I have been embroidering ever since, for twenty-two years.

2. What’s been your greatest success since you started?

I have had a number of recent successes thanks to my participation with the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE) II. In Spring 2015, I worked as an apprentice with a more seasoned micro-business owner in Bethlehem. Through this partnership, I expanded my skill set tremendously. The woman who trained and advised me taught me to be bold and courageous with my color choices and designs. She also connected me with a new customer base. Following my apprenticeship in Bethlehem, I now have clients in both Ramallah and Bethlehem and hope to continue to expand my markets to Jerusalem.

3. What has been your greatest challenge since you started your business?

The region’s political instability is a huge challenge. I recently had a meeting scheduled in Ramallah with a potential vendor but we had to cancel the meeting given the vendor could not travel from Jerusalem to Ramallah. Another challenge is that I am interested in taking out a loan to improve my business but it is hard for women like me to meet the banks’ very high criteria.

4. Talk about your experience with the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE) II? How have you and your business improved since completing WISE II?

Attending and completing WISE II was a tremendously positive experience for me. I have a much stronger personality now and am far more self-confident. At the first training I attended, I was too shy and insecure to even raise my hand and ask a single question. I was also terrified to leave Nablus and travel anywhere else in the country alone. Now I post my products on Facebook and elicit people’s advice and constructive critique and travel to both Bethlehem and Ramallah alone. I am no longer afraid; I have found my voice.

In addition to amazing business development, English, and branding and marketing training, I also learned accounting, budgeting, and bookkeeping and learned that every single expense must be accounted for.

Before WISE II, I spent the majority of my time alone at home. WISE II helped me become more social and helped me see the value and importance of being a part of and cultivating community. I now actively volunteer at my daughter’s school on the Mother’s Council and am now giving women advice as they face financial, personal, and career challenges!

5. Would you recommend it to another up and coming entrepreneur?

I would absolutely recommend TYO’s Business Development Training to someone else. In addition to all the business management skills I learned, I now am part of a vast network of entrepreneurs throughout Palestine. This is invaluable! I want all women to have dreams that extend beyond the walls of their homes to show their children mothers can also work and thrive outside the home. I want women to know and believe they are never under the control of any man. There is no better way to do this than my focusing time and effort on your career. TYO offers women a pathway to small-business ownership and to so much more.

Vanessa is Women's Empowerment Program Coordinator. Futoon is TYO's Outreach Coordinator. They conducted this interview together.