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Women of the Market

Six inspirational ladies, with successful business in one Market. This International Women's Day we discover their stories and speak to them about breaking the bias.

As this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #breakthebias , we spoke to some of the Market’s amazing business women about the bias they have faced during their careers in fashion, retail, and hospitality and asked them what advice they would give to inspire other women to start their own business.

Here is what they said…

Merkamo Ethiopian 

You will find Zinash in her stall almost every day. It is easy to spot her – she is always smiling and chatting to her regular customers who are happy to queue for her delicious food.

She started her business in 2016 and worked hard to build a massive base of loyal followers who queue everyday to enjoy her East-African 100% vegan and mostly gluten-free dishes, packed with original flavours.  It’s super colourful, fresh and filling food at its best.

To Zinash, the success of your business starts with you: “Firstly – be yourself build confidence and and also your boundaries.”
“Learn how to be the best version of yourself that you possibly can be – for you. That’s personally and professionally.  This is essential in business otherwise your customer cannot distinguish you from other similar businesses. The more me I am in my business, the more my customer will engage with me. Be curious about who you are.  Get clear on what matters to you, your values and what you want to achieve.”

“Keep moving forward. Make sure you have and maintain passion for the business that you do!” But an important warning: “Don’t expect to have it all figured out right away.
“Above all be thankful grateful and humble.”

Nilly’s Turkish Kitchen 

Nilly’s Turkish wraps have been a mainstay in the Market from many years now, originally coming all the way from Istanbul. Her irresistible lavas wraps comprise of seasoned meat, fresh salad and a generous helping of garlic sauce to take your taste buds on a ride.

She’s built a solid street food business with a loyal and growing customer base. Her fans and new visitors will queue by her small corner stall seven days a week to watch her and her team, who make the wraps daily from scratch, create her infamous dishes.

Nilly remember she struggle she faced as a women in the hospitality business: “Ever since I’ve started my business there was always male business owners working besides me. They would always said that I couldn’t achieve it by myself and would go behind my back and talk about me.”
But she adds: “This just made me stronger.”

There is no magic recipe to women being successful in business but her is what Nilly keeps in mind when she takes care of  her business and two small children at the same time: “I would always have a target and always try to thrive to that target. I’ve always focused on my path and not listened to the people who doubted me.” 
“But remember this – there will be hard times, don’t ever give up.” 

Maya’s Crown

You will find Maya’s colourful stall in the Market six days a week. Starting with Kashmir scarves, she recently changed her offering to comfortable silk gowns and pyjamas. All her products are made from vintage saris and manufactured by Nepalese & Indian social enterprise empowering women. Handmade, sustainable, upcycled.

While Maya feels lucky to feel she has not experienced bias, she works hard to ensure other’s don’t too. Her business is centred around trying to help women in the manufacturing industry by selling mainly products made by women, something she believes is hugely important.

To all the female entrepreneurs wishing to start their own business one day she reminds: “Always be confident and believe in yourself.  Focus on seeing people as individuals. Increase your exposure so that people discover your business. And also –  practice mindfulness.” 

Mi Cielo London

Emilie, arguably the Market’s smiliest trader,  works hard to design jewellery for everyone and for every occasion. Small elegant stone bracelets, chunkier ones with golden details, simple necklaces with different stones, hoop earring of various sizes, with or without stones – you name it. Emilie comes up with new designs all the time and she is able to create bespoke and personalised styles only for you.

Emilie thinks the problem is the pressure of the society rather than the business environment for women. “Women are still expected to fulfil their role – studying, working, getting married, being able to buy a house, being a mother, and then cope with everything. And we should manage to do so before a certain deadline. So, many times I still hear the classic questions – when I am getting married or when will I have kids.”

But this shouldn’t be the reason to let your dreams go. “Learn what makes you happy. Learn new things and learn from successful people. It was very useful for me to talk and ask for advice and recommendations – from my suppliers, collaborators etc. Don’t give up facing the first difficulties, and keep looking for solutions, ask help when you need it.”

Mercantile London 

You will find Debra’s boutique Mercantile at Lamb Street. For years, she has been selecting the best sustainable and planet friendly fashion pieces. The mix includes pieces from larger independent labels as well as local crafts makers, stylish single colour pieces and vibrant patterns, every day and special occasion pieces from both sides of the price spectrum.

But it is about more than just fashion. Debra and her team are on a mission to educate all their loyal and new customers about fashion industry practises, sustainable and planet friendly approach to shopping – not only in fashion. This includes Debra’s amazing work on Instagram but also in store events in collaboration with her suppliers. So pop in any time to say hi and chat fashion and planet.

Debra thinks herself luckily she did not face any bias in her small business but she did in the fashion industry: “When we did Menswear and I was buying the Men’s product, particularly at trade shows there was little acceptance of a female buying male product. The industry is a little stuck in the past with regards to gender.”

She gives the new and  future women in business the following advice: “When working for a large business or organisation try your best to stamp out bias and demand inclusion even if its for future generations, we need to make progress not just for ourselves. When setting up on your own look to other women for support and encouragement, there’s nothing quite like being lifted by other women.” 

 

Inspitalfields 

Fiona’s not new to the Market. Inspitalfields – East London’s best independent gift shop – started from a market stall years ago and after changing the floor location several times they found a lovely home on Lamb Street.

Fiona and her team carefully curate the shop to bring you an interesting mix of stunning and unusual homeware, books, cookbooks, games and stationary, cards or sustainable gadgets and much more. Whatever is the occasion you shop for, you won’t leave empty handed. Chances are you will leave with a bit more than what you came for.

Fiona remembers some of the bias she faced when starting a business: “Looking back the bias was unbelievable, in the early 90″s  trying to get a business loan – the response was really patronising and I was actually told if I had a male partner in the business it would be easier for me to get finance! As if just by having a male in the business,  would somehow be less of a risk – in the end I called in lots of favours & managed on a very small start up capital.”

But she adds: “Every business start up will have its hurdles to overcome – so just view any bias – as just another hurdle  – use it to build resilience – don’t feel forced into a stereotype to conform to other peoples expectations – stick to your principles & you’ll find a way through.”

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