Kaniz Fatema


 “Everyone can be an entrepreneur! Take initiative and you will be successful.”

28-year old Kaniz Fatema is a successful businesswoman in the male-dominated leather industry in Bangladesh – all while being a single mother.

A businesswoman in the making 

After finishing high school, Kaniz moved to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, to pursue a degree in engineering. Soon after her move, she got married and had a daughter. In 2016, after having finished her degree, Kaniz divorced her husband and started looking for a way to earn money to support herself and her daughter. Kaniz knew that there was a high demand for leather products in Bangladesh and decided to take advantage of that by selling leather items from China online. She was keen to develop this into a more profitable business by selling her own leather products, specifically leather shoes.

However, she was intimidated by the leather industry as it is a very male-dominated sector in Bangladesh. She knew that she would be working primarily with male business partners and recalls many of them telling her that this industry was not for her because she was a woman. The backlash she received really knocked her confidence.

Finding the right opportunity to start her business 

This was all about to change when she saw an advert for YBI’s local member organisation in Bangladesh, B’YEAH on Facebook. B’YEAH is a not-for-profit organisation empowering young Bangladeshis who want to start their own business to realise their dream of becoming successful entrepreneurs.

Kaniz attended one of their outreach events and enrolled in their entrepreneur support programme. She received business management skills training and got matched with a mentor, who helped her develop a business and marketing plan. This helped her build her confidence and in June 2019, she started her leather shoe brand Top Leather. Now, Kaniz can support herself well through her business and has 11 full-time employees!

The future of her business is now 

Her business consists of a factory in which the shoes are produced as well as a showroom and an online shop and Kaniz has become a known figure in the world of young entrepreneurs. Her brand’s popularity in Bangladesh is steadily growing and she will soon move into a bigger production site to be able to meet the high demand for her shoes. Eager to improve and grow her business further, Kaniz receives ongoing business counselling from B’YEAH and has ambitious goals for the next three years: She wants to make Top Leather a household name for leather shoes in Bangladesh and employ 100 people.

Kaniz has now been selected to participate in our Digital Accelerator programme with  IKEA Foundation and will receive support to develop her digital marketing skills!

This week, we are sharing stories of inspiring young female entrepreneurs like Kaniz for International Women's Day. These women are challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers and providing opportunities for others.

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