women entreprenreueurs

Meet the Founder: Laylan Attar

This week’s featured founder is Laylan Attar, who is launching Dada, Sulaimani’s first babysitting app!


Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Laylan and I am 28 years old, a graduate with IT degree and Business administration as minor. I am also a mother of wonderful little girl who was born in January. I was born in Baghdad and lived there for 17 years, but I am originally from Sulaimani where I’m currently settled. My husband Botan Burhan is also my partner. He is 30 years old, from Sulaimani and an IT graduate with a concentration in web technologies.

What is your business idea?

I joined Five One Labs with a business idea that came out of a personal need for a babysitting service that connects parents with babysitters to watch their children for a temporary time.

What challenges is your business addressing?

My business addresses a number of challenges. For working parents, once they have children and build their family, they often have to give up their jobs opportunities or their social life. Additionally, children need love and care but also need their parents to be sane and happy.

This babysitting solution gives peace of mind for the parents and the quality time for their children. It is for children between ages 1 to 12 years and is flexible, affordable and safe.

This service helps in making a healthier family environment and creating job opportunities for qualified babysitters who love spending time with children. It is the first organized platform in Sulaimani.

Can you tell us about your experience starting your business?

Starting my own business required persistence and ambition and a desire to truly want to start this solution and to believe in it.

Since I joined the incubator, it was a very rewarding experience. It prepared me through the guidance of the trainers, and the mentorship that I received from very intelligent and experienced mentor Caroline, made the process possible. Also, the environment of being surrounded by wonderful entrepreneurs encouraged me to think that nothing is impossible. Three months of training, meeting businessmen and women, meeting inspiring speakers and sharing great resources all prepared me to be in that world mentally and physically.

We started with brainstorming ideas among the entrepreneurs and then testing the idea by interviewing people in the market related to my segment. We then built and tested a prototype, which was the best step before launching the business idea. Finally we approached customers, built a marketing strategy, budgeted, and answered legal questions.

When my first customer tried the service, it was full of remarks and feedback. It only meant that no matter how prepared I was, there is still a lot to be improved. When it is your business idea, you will take care of it as if it’s your own little baby. So I will always take care of my little baby to be a matured premier service in the market.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?

It was always my dream to bring a change and be the manager of my own. I always thought I needed experience and education to start my own business. But knowing there is such a place as Five One Labs, which required nothing from the participants but an idea, gave me a new hope. So I joined the incubator with an idea  and now im wrong, it mostly required the belief to be the manager of my own and run my own business.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

To be remembered: My friend once told me that her daughter’s pediatrician's wife was looking for a solution as she has children and needed someone to watch them. Then my friend told her about my solution. Accidently, she was one of the people that I interviewed randomly during the testing phase in the market. She remembered my name and my solution positively which is a great opportunity for a potential clients.

Progress I made during the incubator included networking; testing my business idea by running a couple of babysitting sessions and getting reviews and feedback from them; finding new potential babysitters; finding training programs for the babysitters; and starting the legal process.

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

My advice is:

  • Never ever start a business idea without testing the need for it in the market.

  • Have a strong instinct and believe in yourself when everyone else against you.

  • Be positive. You will attract opportunities.

  • Read a lot and be aware of what’s going on around you.

  • It is a lot of work, sacrifice and responsibility so be prepared.

  • And plan ahead and have a vision.

Dada Logo.png

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.


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.

#GIRLPOWER: Expanding Tech and Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Women

“If women believe in themselves and have enough faith and confidence, they can not only be good at what they do but excel." - Safa Salwan
Photo by Re:Coded

Photo by Re:Coded

Global trends have shown that there is growing interest in STEM, but did you know that across the Arab world, women now earn more science degrees on a percentage basis than women in the United States? And in certain countries in the Middle East, like Jordan, girls have been outperforming boys in every subject?

In keeping with this trend, we want to ensure that young women in Iraq, particularly those who have been displaced, have had equal access to events and support that cultivate their creativity and encourages them to pursue innovative career options.

In partnership with Re:Coded, Zain Iraq, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), we sought to do just that. In November, we hosted the Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship Summit at the Tech Hub in Erbil to bring together inspiring female leaders and innovators to explore opportunities for women in technology and entrepreneurship in Iraq. 

The participants had the opportunity to participate in one of two hands-on, crash-course workshops about coding and entrepreneurship and then listen to inspiring innovators and founders from Iraq talk about their careers.

Speakers included a leader from the refugee community who started her own business; Safa Salwan, Founder of Women Techmakers Baghdad; Ravan Al-Taie, Founder of The Book Cafe Erbil; and Ava Nadir, Head of Zain Kurdistan Marketing Communication and PR Department. The discussion revolved around important issues in Iraq, including the digital gender gap, opportunities and challenges in the tech and startup sectors in the country and the importance of role models to inspire more women to enter the world of technology and entrepreneurship.

Five One Labs and its partner organization hope to continue to encourage women in Iraq to excel by providing them with the support and resources that they need to succeed and by cultivating a community of like-minded women across Iraq. As  highlighted by Safa Salwan during the panel discussion, “If women believe in themselves and have enough faith and confidence, they can not only be good at what they do but excel".


Photo by Re:Coded

Photo by Re:Coded

Building an Online Pharmacy Delivery Service

Five One Labs Entrepreneur Interview


Understanding the background, passions and motivations of the entrepreneurs we work with at Five One Labs is one of the best parts of running our incubator! In this post we introduce you to a team of stellar entrepreneurs (Peru, Ali and Halbast) who participated in our recent Startup Bootcamp. They are working to develop an online pharmacy delivery service and sat down with us to tell us a bit more about themselves and their work!

Q: What is your personal background ?

Peru: My name is Peru. I am studying Information Technology as a  major and business administration as a minor at the American University of Iraq - Sulaimani (AUIS). As a young woman, I am always seeking to have my own business in the future. I started my first step by participating in the Startup Bootcamp where I learned how to improve and find out the strengths and the weaknesses of my idea. 

Q: How did your team come together?

Peru: Since we are a group of three students in two different majors, IT and business at AUIS, we decided to create a business idea which connects both fields together. Because of the fact that we were always interested in participating or volunteering in different events inside and outside the university, we decided to visit Hawler (Erbil) when the event was shared on the Five One Labs Facebook page. Then, the details of our idea were developed during the two days training at the MSelect office. 

Q: What is your teams professional and personal background? 

Peru: My team members are both students studying Business Administration at the American University of Iraq. They  are really hard working people and interested in getting new experiences and spreading new ideas in the community. 

Q: How did your idea come about? What problem are you solving?

Ali: Almost about 10 years ago, I was home all alone with a child who had a chronic lung disease. We were running out of his asthma spray. Back then, I had no clue how to handle the situation. The child was too young to be left alone, and I was too young to drive. Luckily, our neighbor saved his life. Imagine, if that did not happen. I remember when my mother came back home, she said something that initiated the idea in my mind. "I wish there were a home delivery medicine," she said. I introduced the idea to my colleagues, and we developed it along with our survey that we made with pharmacists and patients. We found out not only the patients have problems getting their medicine but also the pharmacists. 

With this online system, we are trying to make our system more efficient and less time consuming for pharmacists to take their medicine on time and with no confusion or misunderstanding that might happen during their order. Having data bases between the pharmacists and the drug store owners will reduce this confusion. 

Q: Why is this pharmacy service important in Kurdistan? 

Ali: This pharmacy service is significantly important in the Kurdistan region because our old system of receiving medicine from the drug stores is very time consuming. This online system will help pharmacists get their order to their pharmacy faster with less misunderstanding. Also, this online system will help our patients get their medicine from the closest pharmacy next to their location. Pharmacists can also deliver some of the medicine to the patients as long as they are approved on the website that they are not addictive, such as Panadol.

Q: How did you find out about Five One Labs? 

Peru: I found out about Five One Labs before I participate in the Startup Boot Camps event, which was shared on Facebook page. A couple days before that, Five One Labs arranged a similar event at the AUIS, and I have heard new related ideas and experiences from my friends who joined the event. Therefore, we need more events like these in the future to improve youth's abilities in the Kurdistan Region. 

Q: How has Five One Labs helped you improve your idea and business? 

Peru: Before I participate in the Startup Boot Camps, it was like a dream to imagine having my own business as a woman. I am so grateful to be part of the Five One Labs and appreciate their great efforts to progress our business ideas. It taught me not only to think differently but also to analyze my dream from the base of nothing to design plans, find solutions to the problems, creat business models, prototypes, pitch, and finally following the paths on succeeding my business. Since I was introduced to great minded people including, mentors, judges, and volunteers, it encouraged me to keep in touch with them and share future projects with them. Above all, these would never be happened without the supports of the Five One Labs.

Q: How is it being a young woman entrepreneur in Kurdistan? 

Peru: In the Kurdistan Region, there are fewer opportunities for women to open their own businesses compared to men, and this is mostly because of either the culture, gender inequality, or women's responsibilities at home. Therefore, to be a young woman entrepreneur in Kurdistan has a special value to me because it gives me enough courage to turn my dreams into reality at an early age, and it expands my expectations to become what I desire as a woman.

Above all, I was always passionate about helping other women to overcome their fear of success, always appreciate and remember their achievements to make a change in their lives and fight for what they want. Therefore, it was a great opportunity to introduce to different great minded people turning my potential abilities into performance and placing confidence in me to continue pursuing my goals and solve major problems in the community.

"To be a young woman entrepreneur in Kurdistan has a special value to me because it gives me enough courage to turn my dreams into reality at an early age, and it expands my expectations to become what I desire as a woman." - Peru, online pharmacy co-founder

Q: What would you say to people in America who are skeptical about entrepreneurship in Kurdistan? 

Peru: It is true we won’t stop at a place but we will keep on improving on our path to being one of the best.

Q: Why are you interested in entrepreneurship? Why is entrepreneurship so important?

Halbast: Entrepreneurship is very important in my country as it can be used as a weapon to fight back against the backward system we are used to, as it also helps the economic growth.