Making the family businesses her own
Growing up in a family of cobblers, Qurat Ul Ain Ansari knew she wanted to continue the family trade tradition. But in a family with no sons, she also knew she would have to do it in her own way. So, after returning home to Lahore from her post-graduate education in the U.K. in 2012 and with the support of her father, she launched CHAPTER 13, an online retailer selling high-quality, handmade shoes and accessories that promote Pakistani culture and craftmanship.
Qurat made it a priority to hire local shoemakers and to create as much of each product in-house as possible. In fact, the company boasts a 90% in-house production rate. Further, her company introduced themed collections, such as “Secret Garden” and “Birds of Paradise,” to the Pakistani market, providing an attractive, locally made footwear option for shoppers.
Breaking gender barriers
In a society that is still largely patriarchal, Qurat knew that she would face hurdles that were solely based on her gender.
Qurat admits that finding investors was challenging because of this. “They didn’t doubt my capabilities or intelligence – it was purely based on gender,” she says. “But I’m lucky to have the coolest and most supportive father. It’s because of his trust that I’ve managed to come this far. I know the saying is, ‘behind every successful man there is a woman,’ but for me, an open-minded man’s support has made a strong-headed woman like me successful.”
Qurat’s wish is for CHAPTER 13 to become a family business, so much so that the name is partly based on their family. “I named the business CHAPTER 13 for three reasons: because it started in December 2013; because there are 13 Ansari cousins that I hope will eventually join the company as they grow older; and because I wanted to refute the idea that the number ‘13’ is unlucky.”
Finding success online
Qurat created her company’s Facebook page on 31 December, 2012, and that was where her business found its initial success. For the first four years of operation, a majority of CHAPTER 13’s shoes were sold via Facebook and Instagram, and currently 70% of the sales happen online.
“My entire business revolved around Facebook in the beginning. It helped me build my brand, increase sales and attract new customers,” Qurat said.
She’s also used the social media platform to drive exports and hire new employees. She’s been so pleased with the results Facebook and Instagram have given her business that she’s launched a sub-brand, BASIC, which focuses on comfortable shoes for daily wear, exclusively sold on the social media sites.
Her advice to other women entrepreneurs is to work hard and to stand up for themselves. “Only hard work, dedication, consistency and your trust in God can take you to your goal.”