Sima Al Kanawati was running her own architectural design firm in her hometown of Damascus, Syria, when she started volunteering her time to help women and families in need, helping those that have been displaced find shelter. Through her work with the community, she met her husband, Muhammad, who shared her passion for design and helping others.
As the conditions in Syria grew increasingly unstable, Muhammad’s office was shut down. They had to make a choice. “Determined not to be defeated by the circumstances, we decided to leave and seek new opportunities in Lebanon,” Sima recounted. Despite the challenges they faced as refugees in Lebanon, Sima dedicated herself to her studies and earned her master’s degree in architecture in Beirut.
However, Lebanon proved to be a difficult place for them to restart their careers. In 2015, Sima and Muhammad took a leap of faith and moved to Türkiye. “We settled in Istanbul, a city that offered us numerous opportunities as the commercial and industrial capital. The diverse population and the presence of acquaintances made us feel at home, and the similarities in the environment reduced our sense of alienation,” Sima shared.
“We knew that establishing a successful Syrian business in Türkiye required studying the market, analyzing opportunities, and finding our niche. With our knowledge and expertise, we identified a promising market and legally established our company, More Design, at the end of 2015,” Sima said. “Starting a business in a new country is challenging, but we were determined to make it work. We knew we had the skills and expertise; we just needed the right opportunity.”
In their new home in Türkiye, Sima found the support she needed to grow her business through Building Markets. Navigating new challenges together with her mentor, another woman in business like herself, Sima learned many new skills since she began attending Building Markets business bootcamps and trainings in 2020. Since then, she’s learned how to recover after financial setbacks, like what she experienced during Covid-19. Despite the vast challenges, the advice shared by Building Markets helped Sima to adapt to a more local market at the height of the pandemic then later switch gears to exporting her uniquely designed furniture to Qatar and the United States. Sima shares, “This opportunity was made possible through the mentorship sessions we had with Building Markets. These sessions helped us navigate the challenges of international trade and discover new avenues for growth.”
“Before Building Markets, our company was registered, but we struggled to gain traction in the market. It felt like we had the framework of a house, but it was incomplete. However, after participating in these sessions, we were able to fully construct and furnish our ‘house,’ so to speak,” Sima explained.
Sima found that once they were given a chance to learn and grow, the advice and skills they received helped them to continue building the trusted relationships they’re known for, just on a larger scale. Doing the work takes time. Over the years, Sima is proud of where they came from and excited to see where they go. “Although the projects were initially small, we knew there were more opportunities awaiting us. We started with a saw and the simple equipment we brought with us from Beirut,” she recalls, “but as our reputation grew, so did our business.”
As they grew their customer base in Istanbul, More Design expanded their offerings to include office and home decorations, as well as smart multi-use furnishings. With each passing day, they saw the demand for their products grow. They realized that, in order to continue to keep up with demand, they would need to start manufacturing their own products. Two years have passed since they began maximizing their winter months to have ready-for-sale products by the time the busy season rolls around. Now they have a dedicated workshop for wood and ironwork, as well as a separate space for painting. Looking to the future, Sima is currently working on creating a showroom where customers can try out her products before making a purchase.
Sima feels that Building Markets has played a pivotal role in her business’s growth and success. “Their resources and support have not only helped us make significant progress but have also enabled us to create new job opportunities. Through their mentorship sessions, training, and webinars, we were equipped with valuable resources and guidance,” she says.
“One of the key advantages of mentorship was the direct communication. We could seek expert guidance whenever we faced questions or needed assistance. This provided us with a sense of reassurance and support, empowering us to make informed decisions that propelled our business forward,” Sima shared.
Tags : Success Story