In public debates and discourse around the world, women’s empowerment is gaining momentum. In Pakistan, Kanwal Anes Ahmed is amongst those trying to upend the culture of silence by giving women a platform to express themselves freely.
Launched in 2016 out of Kanwal’s parents’ guest bedroom, Soul Sisters aimed to create a place where women felt comfortable speaking their minds. The meagre savings Kanwal had gathered went towards buying a domain and hiring a freelancer for website design.
Much of the content on the website is around fashion, beauty and lifestyle, but the site’s biggest differentiator is the real-life stories it features.
“I started Soul Sisters because I felt there were not many avenues for women in Pakistan to express themselves,” Kanwal says. Through her platform, the young founder is hoping to inspire women and bridge differences by providing a space where women can unabashedly be themselves.
Kanwal also uses her website to support other small businesses run by women through honest reviews, recognition and recommendations.
Navigating digital media challenges
Despite sizeable website traffic and more than 71,000 members on her Facebook Group, Kanwal remains humble about her success. “I would not say I’m very successful, but the little I have managed to achieve has been through persistence,” she says.
Indeed, the entrepreneur works tirelessly, clocking in on average 18 hours a day and prioritising work over holidays. “There is literally just one thing I tell every entrepreneur and aspiring influencer. Persistent hardwork and unwavering belief in yourself makes magic happen,” she adds.
Kanwal credits Facebook with some of her success. In fact, the idea for the website was born out of a Facebook Group Kanwal began in 2013 as a way to provide support to women on a range of domestic issues.
Still, like other publications, Soul Sisters relies on advertisers to monetise, which is proving to be Kanwal’s biggest challenge right now. “When I first started the blog two years ago, advertisers were reluctant to pay for branded content and often equated free samples to compensation,” she says.
Thankfully, the huge fan following and high engagement levels on her all-women Facebook Group is giving advertisers confidence. What’s more, as a well-known influencer in Pakistan, Kanwal is able to supplement her income by making appearances in TV ads, digital videos and other marketing campaigns.
In the future, the young founder hopes to curate better content to attract advertisers. This includes experimenting with more videos and expanding to other South Asian markets.
For both efforts, she believes Facebook and Instagram will play a crucial role allowing her to monetise videos and create a steady source of revenue to further her plans.
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