Meet the Founder: Znara Ahmed

In this week's "Meet the Founder" post, we are introducing Znara Ahmed, an artist and entrepreneur from Syria who is on a mission to spread art throughout Kurdistan. Znara participated in Five One Labs' Entrepreneur Academy, where she worked to launch her business -- a multipurpose art space that serves as a gallery and an art school.

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

My name is Znara Ahmed. I graduated with an Art degree in Syria and my major was in ceramic. I like all art, especially, of course, ceramics, but also painting, photography and art management.

In the past, I worked as part of the faculty at the Art Institute in Damascus. I have also participated in three art shows in Erbil, including one in partnership with Five One Labs. Further, I have worked as an executive manager at Kurdistan Little Village, a children’s learning center, where I supervised an art program.

My work in photography has included being a trainer in Terre des Hommes Italia, an NGO, Goethe institute Germany. I have also worked with Save the Children. I also implemented a children’s TV program with ZaraTV, focused on claywork.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

As I have a strong background in the field, I came to realize there was a gap in Iraq generally when it came to art. This was the case in Kurdistan, especially as people often do not pay attention to the sector. This gave me the idea for my business.

What’s your business’s current mission?

I consider art to be the face of the community of any nation. It is important to advocate the sector. My business’s current mission is to create a place for children, youth and retired people to explore their creativity and develop their talent while in a gallery.

How did you break into the business world?

The idea of giving business a go first struck me after participating in a business module in the Five One Labs program through their Entrepreneur Academy. This motivated me to get started because from the program I had learned how to start a project, how to advertise and how to market a product. This coupled with my desire to share the experience I have and the opportunity to advocate the importance of integrating art into daily life inspired me to get started.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business or project?

Anyone planning to start their own business or project, you must first identify the following: the plan, the location, the target and beneficiaries. They must also evaluate and research similar projects and identify any weak point so he/she can overcome these in their own work. Do lots of research to identify the cost of starting a new project. Be sure to market and advertise your product. Finally, pay attention to the importance of leadership and be prepared to be flexible when managing staff.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

The skills are: flexibility and the ability to make decisions; problem solving; leadership and management; and communication.

Describe your typical day.

My typical day is based on planning, taking time to focus and at the end of the day, considering the results of any achievements made.

What’s your favourite part of the work you do?

I like the endless creativity that can be found in art. I also love that it gives me the opportunity to share my experiences with others and learn how art affects their lives. Finally, it is always great to sell one of my pieces of art.

Do you feel you have faced any obstacles as a female entrepreneur and how have you overcome these?

In general, most females in the country face issues in being an entrepreneur. This is especially the case if you work in the art sector, which in itself is already challenging in Kurdistan. The way I overcome these challenges is by not letting myself be stopped by them and by focusing on how to be productive. I believe having a strong personality and faith behind your goal gives you the power to change the way others think.

How do you see the future of business and entrepreneurship for women?

I can see success. I also have high hopes for the future of handmade projects designed specifically by those who cannot read or write.