Let me say first of all that I love being an entrepreneur. I love the fact that I have been able to create a business strategy, launch a business, and importantly, employ people who are as dedicated as I am to our social mission and high-quality watches that tell the story of the Kurdish heritage that I, and so many others, have grown up in. I also love the fact that despite the culture I grew up in, I, as a woman, was able to succeed in my mission.
Yes, I love being an entrepreneur, and I will tell you exactly why! But before I do, however, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that becoming an entrepreneur was a simple thing to do. It wasn’t. There were (and still are) many challenges to overcome, some because of my gender, my upbringing and culture, and others simply because of the challenges that every entrepreneur faces.
While in an ideal society we like to think of our world as not having gender bias, the fact of the matter is it does. In all economies, according to the World Bank, women account for only 25 percent of new business owners and directors. Being an entrepreneur and a leader of your business takes a lot of energy and a ton of courage. This energy and courage did not come to me overnight. As founder and CEO of my company, Bajer Watches, it took my entire lifetime to prepare for the moment that I would create and launch my own company. Now that I’ve created it, I want to share five things that I love about being an entrepreneur:
- I get to choose my own destiny.
The decisions I make are my decisions, not decisions that others have made for me. Yes, I collaborate. Yes I gather opinions. But choosing my own destiny is particularly significant for me as I grew up in a society where as a female, I wasn’t allowed to make decisions that would affect my entire life. Others did. For instance, most girls were not allowed an education. Why did they need to go to school if they weren’t being groomed for success and independence? I fortunately had a family that believed in education, and I was able to go to high school, and then on to college and graduate school in the U.S., where I currently am living and studying.
- The risks I take are my risks. The rewards are many, and I share them with others.
We all know the expression “without risk there is no reward.” I have taken risks throughout my life. Living where my family did in the Kurdish area of Turkey was a risk (although, with what was going on there, it wasn’t my choice to begin with!). Going to school was a risk. Leaving my country to pursue a higher education in the U.S. was a risk. Where were the rewards in these risks? I try to think of the positives that have emanated from every aspect of my life. The rewards from living in Turkey included the rich culture that I inherited and have been a part of, and am now sharing with the global community through my company, Bajer. It’s so hard to convey to people that education, something that so many people take for granted as they enjoy it as a right, was a risk. It’s hard for me to believe it as well. The rewards of my education are many: having the structure and knowledge to earn a living; being able to use that knowledge to start a company; developing problem-solving skills; giving back to my community; passing along my knowledge and experience to my family and creating an environment where my children can learn as well.
- I get to make a positive impact on the community.
One of the greatest joys for me of being an entrepreneur is the fact that we provide assistance to the women and children in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, as we support NGOs that provide them educational and financial independence. They are acquiring skills that will help create a better sense of respect and accomplishment, and which can be passed on to others in their family and their community.
- I love standing up for what I believe in.
As a woman, and a Kurdish woman at that, I’ve encountered numerous challenges that have involved gender bias and stereotypical behaviors. I have tried my best, and I believe I am succeeding, to create a culture within my organization that respects women and frankly respects other people’s ideas and contributions to society. I hope and believe that through the progress that we as a company are making, that we can change some of these attitudes about inequality. I believe in a work-life balance, pay equality and respect. And through Bajer, I am standing up for what I believe in.
- I’ve learned to make mistakes and accept failure.
So many people strive for perfection the first time around. Believe me, I’ve made many mistakes as I set upon my entrepreneurial journey. I am far from perfect. While achieving perfection every time would be an amazing accomplishment, what would I learn from that? But what has kept me going as an entrepreneur is to strive to find the best solution to help me achieve my business goals. I’ve failed many times, but that has gotten me back up on my feet to try harder, to try harder to make the story of the Kurdish women known around the world.
This article was contributed by Leyla Uysal, founder and president of Bajer Watches.
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