From TikTok to Thriving Enterprise: Seher Fuad’s Resilient Entrepreneurial Tapestry

In March 2024, Inkomoko’s comms team in Ethiopia met with clients to learn more about their experiences in our new program focused on urban refugees and internally displaced people in Addis. Seher Fuad was kind enough to let us share a part of her story on economic growth. 

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The rhythmic whir of the tufting machine provided the soundtrack to Seher Fuad’s newfound life in Ethiopia as an entrepreneur. Each colored yarn punched into the canvas represented a vibrant thread in the intricate tapestry of her journey from refugee to businesswoman.

War had uprooted Seher Fuad from Yemen, forcing her to flee with her two young children to Ethiopia. Although a certified nurse in Yemen, she was unable to apply her medical skills in Addis Ababa due to various barriers. As a single mother navigating an unfamiliar city and grappling with language barriers, she was one of 71,000 refugees in the Ethiopian capital struggling to forge sustainable livelihoods. Many displaced families survived through informal work or necessity-driven micro-enterprises. 

Amidst these realities, Seher faced immense challenges providing for her children. However, she was determined to make it, launching her current business: made-to-order branded hand-tufted rugs. The unique rug designs gradually emerging beneath her deft hands symbolized her determination to weave a path towards economic self-reliance.

Inspired by rug tufting videos on TikTok, Seher invested her savings into a tufting machine and materials. Her makeshift workshop became her solid foundation for creativity amidst displacement. Seher’s innovative mirror-bordered rugs quickly captured the local market, even garnering acclaim from TikTok. She now uses social media to advertise her work.

As Seher’s orders poured in, disaster struck – her tufting machine broke down. Unable to produce large rugs in high demand, she was forced to rely on smaller orders, hindering her operations and growth. Despite having overcome countless obstacles, this setback threatened to derail Seher’s upward trajectory.

It was then that other refugees recommended Seher join Inkomoko’s Addis Ababa Urban Refugee program, designed to nurture displaced entrepreneurs striving for economic independence. “I learned crucial skills like financial management, scaling operations, and sustainable business practices,” she recalls. Her business advisor, Ahmed, mentored her through each challenge.

Ahmed says “When Seher started, she lacked a structured approach….After joining our program, I witnessed remarkable growth. She now purchases directly from suppliers and uses digital marketing effectively. When I recommended her for financing, I observed a substantial increase in revenue and her ability to expand operations.

←–  Check out the rug Seher made for Inkomoko!!!

Seher received an investment of 100,000 ETB (1760.19 USD) from Inkomoko through our partners. This allowed her to acquire new equipment and materials, reigniting production of her distinctive rugs.

Seher’s rugs now embody diverse narratives of economic empowerment, creativity, and inclusion underpinning Inkomoko’s mission. “My rugs are more than just beautiful pieces,” Seher declares. “They represent the resilience and creativity that can blossom even in the most difficult circumstances. I want to nurture that same spirit in others who have traveled difficult paths.”

Sitting amidst vivid yarns and weavings, Seher dreams of expanding into a showroom to train other displaced artisans while making her rugs accessible to every household. Seher’s experience and hope for her future underscore how supporting uprooted entrepreneurs can be a pathway out of crisis towards self-reliance, gender equality, and socio-economic integration. Her spirit is a radiant thread inspiring hope and prosperity.

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For more information about Inkomoko and the entrepreneur we serve, please visit www.INKOMOKO.com

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