Meet the Founder: Znara Ahmed

The final member of our Female Founders Fellowship to be featured on our blog is Syrian artist Znara Ahmed, the founder of Sêv Gallery, an art gallery and center for art education. Learn more on Sêv Gallery’s Facebook page!

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Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Znara Ahmed. I graduated from an art institute in Syria with a major in ceramics. 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 six  art shows between Erbil and Sulaimani, including one in partnership with Five One Labs. I have also 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, and Goethe institute Germany. I have also worked with Save the Children. I also implemented a children’s TV program with ZaraTV, focused on claywork.‏ Last year I was part of the jury at the Rwanga Foundation.

‏Currently I work with freelance organizations as a ceramic and photography trainer, and I am currently working on opening my own gallery, called Sêv Gallery.

Can you tell us about your business? What inspired you to start it?

‏When I came to Erbil, I had a problem finding a place where I would enjoy my hobbies and my development. Additionally I observed the following:

  • There are very few cultural spaces in Erbil.

  • There are no galleries and only limited places for adults and children to learn creative arts, practice their hobbies, or appreciate art.

  • People seek out activities for their children, signing them up for summer school or sports activities. However, there are very few cultural activities for children.

  • Young adults do not have places to go after work to practice their hobbies and enjoy their time.

What are some of the challenges your business has faced and how have you addressed them?

My main challenges include obtaining legal support and funding. I hope that the more I work on my business, the more people I will meet who are interested in my business and in potentially funding it.

What is your proudest moment/biggest achievement when it comes to your business?

The place, the vision of people they love and come as customers, the success of work and the most important team successful, because I believe the idea of the team .

Can you tell us about your experience starting your business in Kurdistan?

It was a difficult experience because I came from Syria, so there were more challenges. I worked in teaching and administration, and then I moved to work with organizations as a trainer for ceramics and photography. I have clients and I have many paintings. I have also worked on the issue of logo and social  media for my business. I have some challenges in terms of licensing and financing. I am trying to solve them constantly. I try what benefited from the existing experiences around me.

How have you supported other women in your community?

I have trained many women in photography and ceramics to take a career in the future. Recently I have actively participated in the International Women's Day and I was invited three other women to participate. I have faith in the idea of women supporting other women.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own project/business?

For anyone who is planning to start their own business or project, they 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 they 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.

Why did you join the Five One Labs Female Founders Fellowship?

I joined the program to gain experience from the trainers and the other women in the program, and to expand my network of relationships with people interested in this project. I wanted to understand how to solve the problems I face in my work and find solutions to them. Additionally, I wanted to meet with people who care about the implementation of this idea and receive their support.