Beyond borders: Female entrepreneurs turn into digital exporters

Women represent the fastest-growing category of entrepreneurs worldwide. Women in Turkey have also become an important part of the country’s economic transformation and form the backbone of the ever-developing entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The coronavirus pandemic created an opportunity for thousands of women to embark on a journey to sell online various products they produce at home, including bags and jewelry, and eventually start their own businesses.

The various opportunities that have arisen due to technological developments help small businesses grow by providing them all with access to the same tools.

For example, Meta platforms allow female entrepreneurs living in the most remote corners of Turkey to deliver their handmade products to buyers elsewhere in the world.

Let’s take a look at the success stories of two female entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses by using Meta platforms and technology more effectively.

Magic of glass

Şebnem Kurtul is a woman who has been fascinated by the magic of glass and the beautiful colors created by the sun striking glass since she was a child.

This encouraged her to study industrial design at the university. Although Kurtul enjoyed working for many companies in the creative field, she could not resist the urge to create her own glass art.

So, in October 2017, she started to create wearable glass art in many shapes, starting with earrings and rings, by establishing a self-branded workshop as an additional business.

Initially selling to friends and family, Kurtul opened a professional Instagram account to expand her customer base and has since gained an international audience, founded a second jewelry brand and quit her job so that she could pursue her passion wholeheartedly.

Using her professional Instagram profile as a self-curated gallery, she shares aesthetic and eye-catching images of her creations. At the same time, she likes to give her online community an insight into the day-to-day process of the business by sharing behind-the-scenes footage of the production process through Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels.

As a result of her branding with the platform, Kurtul has been able to attract many businesses and prominent names who want to work with her, whether it be museums that want to showcase her works or celebrities who want to wear her creations at high-level events.

In addition to being an excellent stage for Kurtul to showcase her products, Instagram allows her to interact with customers individually and even secure sales. She receives regular requests from potential customers and generates 50% of her revenue through the platform.

Instagram is a great communication platform where you can communicate with anyone. You can ask people for advice, and also communicate with your customers and new business partners, ”says Kurtul.

As her business continues to grow, Kurtul’s audience in Istanbul continues to remain important to her. In her mission to support them in business, she helps women on their way to success by giving advice and free glass melting lessons to those who want to start their own glass business.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, Kurtul faced many obstacles. Not only did her suppliers have to close, but the economic crisis in the United States also prevented the possibility of getting supplies from the region.

During this time, she set up her own website where people could order her works directly while continuing to make her products and sell pre-made creations through the Instagram Store.

In the future, Kurtul hopes to open more stores and museums internationally. She also hopes to host her own jewelry and sculpture exhibition, where people will be able to witness her works.

AnatolianCraft

The retired architect and fashion-loving entrepreneur Bilge Can has always enjoyed combining items of Turkish origin and making her own embroidered pieces as a hobby. Noticing the lack of sustainable pieces representing her own culture in the fashion world, Can decided to establish the award-winning fashion brand, AnatolianCraft, in 2016, which designs and makes hand-embroidered and luxurious shoes and accessories made from ethically sourced local materials.

Can, with the help of her daughter Begüm Can Öcal, not only promotes eco-friendly slow fashion but also uses her brand to support local female artisans and assures that they are getting their fair compensation for their work.

This duo has created global brand awareness with customers all over Europe, the US and the Middle East using their professional Facebook and Instagram accounts.

“Meta technologies have been and continue to be a very important factor in facilitating our production activities, marketing and sales activities,” says Öcal.

The team uses Meta Business Manager to publish their content to protect the image they create on all social channels of their businesses. Through posts, Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories, they showcase their new products, promote collaborations with celebrities and provide information about their production processes. As a result, they realize 90% of their sales thanks to the Meta technologies and websites.

Can and Öcal, in addition to their organic content, create Facebook ads to expand their reach and put forward their posts and dynamic creative ads. They are learning how people interact with websites using Meta Pixel. For instance, when they realized that the value of a shopping basket of a customer in the Middle East is higher, they created Special Target Audiences to find people in this region.

Communicating with their customers and artisan communities is vital to their success, and to do this, the duo uses Meta messaging tools such as Instagram Direct and WhatsApp. All their interactions with collaborators take place via WhatsApp, while their customers contact them via Instagram Direct for product requests. The team receives an average of 10 messages a day through the platform.

Can, who was not very active on the internet before the pandemic, was selling most of her products through a local concept store. When the enterprises began to close and Öcal became involved in the brand, they began to devote more time to their Meta profiles. They started using Meta Business Manager to create advertising campaigns more often.

In the future, they hope to open their own physical store and grow their family of artists. At the same time, they plan to create their own WhatsApp Business account for all professional chats, as well as further highlight their presence on Instagram.

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