Zara joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme as a mentee in 2017, matched with mentor Bridget. They reflect on their journey together in this blog.
Azerbaijan and the UK
Bridget helped me make tough decisions. She challenged me by asking questions which I was afraid to ask myself.
Zara is a determined and hardworking entrepreneur from Azerbaijan who is passionate about women’s empowerment. She began dancing competitively at a young age, serving as an ambassador for her country and a role model for young girls. When she was just 18 years old, Zara used her extraordinary discipline and experience with dance costumes to start her own dress boutique, ALZA. Now, at the age of 23, Zara’s business is thriving and she has launched another endeavour, Wowoman, which is an online platform that provides the space and tools to support women to reach their full potential.
Zara and her team started ALZA from a coffee shop, working together to source dresses from the all over the world to sell locally. As the business started to grow, they moved into an office and opened an adjacent showroom. But, without any formal business training, Zara was concerned that she wasn’t maximising her business’ impact, and she joined the Mentoring Women in Business programme to improve her financial planning and scale up her operations.
Zara was matched with Bridget, an executive coach and facilitator in the UK with a business development background at a major telecommunications provider. Zara and Bridget quickly built rapport. They discussed Zara’s financial concerns, with Bridget asking specific questions about her financial position, revenue forecast and product pricing. Together, they were able to identify opportunities to reduce costs and capitalise on growth. In line with this, Bridget and Zara created a robust marketing plan and Zara diversified her products to start offering rental dresses. She said, “Bridget helped me make tough decisions. She challenged me by asking questions which I was afraid to ask myself. Overall, it just felt good talking to her and getting confirmation that I’m on the right track.”
These changes helped Zara’s business to flourish, despite facing an economic crisis and two major devaluations of Azerbaijan’s currency, which effectively increased her costs by 100%. Zara has opened a second store, reached nearly 175,000 followers on Instagram and increased her revenue by over 50%.
In addition to the success of her dress business, Zara also worked with her mentor to launch her women’s empowerment platform, which she is particularly proud of. As women’s roles are often quite traditional in Azerbaijan, Zara recognised the need for a female space like Wowoman.
Now, only 18 months after Wowoman’s launch, Zara and her team of 53 volunteers have organised nearly 100 events, workshops and training courses reaching over 5,500 participants. She has also published a daily planner to provide tools and inspiration to women in business. Most recently, she has created an international ambassador programme to foster a global network of women leaders.
Throughout the mentoring relationship, Bridget was impressed and inspired by Zara’s drive and focus. She said, “It was a real honour and privilege to work with someone who thought big, dreamed big and delivered on everything.”
Find out more about our global Mentoring programme
Mentoring Women in Business is one of the Foundation's three flagship programmes. We pair businesspeople everywhere as mentors with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries as mentees for an incredibly rich, personalised, cross-border, online experience. This is transformative for mentees and mentors alike—and their companies.
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