Maya Albabbili has always been passionate about everything related to chemical equations and studied chemistry for several years at the University of Damascus in Syria. Before the war broke out, Maya was a stay-at-home mom, raising her three children. Facing increasing insecurity and with no end to the war in sight, she fled Syria with her family in 2013.
Maya and her family moved to Jordan with the hope of rebuilding their lives in a new country, but the death of her mother in 2015 sent another shockwave through her life. During this time she found solace in an unexpected activity: making laurel soap. “I have always loved this soap. I feel that it combines chemistry and art. You can add multiple colors and fragrant smells,” she says. During this time she continued her studies, earning a certificate in analytical chemistry. Her education in oil extraction and water distillation allows her to make products from 90% natural materials.
The feedback from her family and friends after trying her products was positive and encouraged her to move to Türkiye and establish her business, Buqé Cosmetics, in Istanbul in 2019. “Doing business in Jordan as a foreigner was difficult,” says Maya. “Foreigners cannot open their own business without a Jordanian partner. I applied for a license three times and was rejected.” Conversely, Türkiye offered many business opportunities and advantages because of its location and the availability of raw materials she could use for her products.
Establishing a successful business in a new country is a challenge. In Türkiye, Maya had a unique product, the required licenses, and the capabilities, but lacked knowledge of the Turkish market, sales, how to market her product, or where to start. Through Building Markets’ mentorship and advisory services, Maya learned about tenders, marketing, and sales strategies, and how to grow her business. She also had the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs through matchmaking events.
Currently, Buqé Cosmetics has both wholesale and retail lines and employs seven people. The company manufactures nearly twenty beauty products, including soaps, exfoliating gels, creams, and lipsticks, all with EU certifications. Maya prioritizes customers’ feedback and works with them until they reach the desired results. After building a positive relationship with a customer in Germany, the customer offered to represent Buqé in Germany, allowing the company to break into the European market. Surrounded by the products she’s created, Maya speaks confidently about her plans for the future of her business. “I want to increase our production capacity, increase our export amount, and open a branch in Dubai in five years.”
“It was not easy at all, but we succeeded,” Maya says, reflecting on her journey from her office in Istanbul’s Kayasehir district. “My husband now sells glasses he buys from Turkish manufacturers in Europe. My eldest son is studying chemical engineering at university, just like me. And I became the owner of my own business. I’m proud of myself for getting to this point.”
Global poverty is rising for the first time in decades, but access to economic opportunity can help families build thriving lives. Responding to the urgency of this moment, a group of generous donors will match every dollar up to $100,000 raised through December 31, 2022. Your gift will enable Building Markets to adapt and scale our programs to reach more small businesses creating critical jobs around the world.
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