WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Mai
Business: Candles for Life
Mai was raised in Jenin, Palestine where she graduated from the Arab American University in 2013 with a degree in Economics. During her academic studies, she had an internship with an organization, Partners for Sustainable Development, empowering youth with the necessary life skills for success. Upon graduating, Mai took the lessons she learned through the internship to create Woman Day After Day (WDAD) in 2013. She noticed that many women were graduating from college and not entering the workforce. She began offering job training skills to prepare young women for the job market and in October 2014, she officially registered her nonprofit with the Jenin Chamber of Commerce.
After establishing WDAD, Mai decided to take on a for-profit business venture producing handmade candles. It was in her first year of studies that she realized how much she loved candles, especially for decorative purposes. At the beginning, Mai produced her unique product by melting pre-made candles with different colors and scents and then molding them into different designs. After conducting online research, she learned how to make candles from raw materials and where to buy them. Using money she saved from tutoring children, she purchased the materials to expand on her idea.
Mai learned about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from the Chamber of Commerce in Jenin. She has never lacked ambition but now, with the tools she acquired in the program, she feels better equipped to succeed in her business. The marketing component of the business plan has allowed Mai to map out the market and client need of her product in a practical manner. The WISE II program has assisted her in finding a source of raw materials at a much lower cost than she was paying before. Having so many different coaches and consultants from a variety of backgrounds available to her, allowed for Mai to reach out to the appropriate person for any question that arose.
Through the WISE II program, Mai has not only learned a lot about her business but also about herself. Although she helps her peers enter the job market, having her own career was not an easy task. Due to cultural gender norms, working raised several barriers from her family. It took a lot of insistence and persuasion to change their convictions and this is something that she continues to struggle with as she tries to work outside of Jenin. Through the psychosocial component of the WISE II program, Mai has further questioned the limitations placed on women due to culture. She realized that in order to make a change in society, she needed to start with herself. This concept has empowered her to become even more determined to be a successful businesswoman.
Mai has made business and personal connections with her fellow female entrepreneurs in the program. She has started to collaborate on different projects including one with a fellow WISE II participant that incorporates her candles with stained glass home décor. Although Mai’s English has improved through the professional development sessions, she wants to continue to work on her language skills. Mai hopes to participate in international exhibitions in the future where she will be able to put this skill to use.
-WISE II Entrepreneur Mai interviewed by TYO Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri