Turkan, based in North Cyprus, is a graduate of our May 2019 to May 2020 Mentoring Women in Business Programme. Find out here about the sort of impact her mentor Shimrit had on her and her business.

When Turkan graduated from the University of Warwick with a master’s degree in Supply Chain and Logistics Management, she never imagined that she would eventually run her family’s retail business. However, when her mother, who had been running the home textiles and homeware store, fell ill, Turkan took up the reins. The business has been operating for nearly 18 years, and Turkan has now been heading it for eight years.

Last year, Turkan realised that she needed to transform her business digitally to keep pace in the new, online world.  While her main aim in transforming the business was to meet increased customer expectations for convenience and service in the retail store, Turkan understood the value of investing in technology. However, with new tools and systems advancing at such a pace, deciding where to start was proving a challenge for her. She knew the transformation of her business would require her to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure. Turkan’s first thought was to apply for financial support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), but she eventually decided that taking out a loan wouldn’t be right for her business. The bank, in turn, recommended she apply to the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women in Business programme—of which EBRD is a partner—to work with a mentor.

Turkan applied for the programme with the aim of working with a mentor to set up her business website, improve her marketing skills and expand her business growth. She also wanted a mentor with confidence in balancing work and family life, so she could be supported to learn how to do this for herself. Turkan’s application was successful, and the Foundation matched her with Shimrit, a growth consultant based in the United Kingdom with  experience in digital marketing, product development and business growth. Shimrit’s knowledge aligned perfectly with Turkan’s objectives.

Relationship focus

Making use of online tools to make sure their monthly meetings ran smoothly,  Shimrit supported Turkan to start transforming her business model. Both started working on setting up and increasing social media engagement (Facebook and Instagram), and creating a plan to launch a user-friendly, e-commerce-led website.  The pair also discussed how Turkan could delegate her work so she can develop her managerial skills and promote her work-life balance.

Halfway through the programme and having launched her business website, Turkan still found it hard to believe that her customers would use the site rather than coming to the store. However, the impact of COVID-19 and the need to practice social distancing meant that many of her customers began turning to her site to shop online rather than in person.  Her business successfully increased online sales and she now has four channels customers can use to order products online: through the business website, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Her retail business is moreover the first in North Cyprus to have its own website where customers can place orders.

Above all, Turkan maintains that through working with her mentor she has gained leadership and confidence skills. Turkan is certain that talking to Shimrit encouraged her to focus on her goals.  As Simrit told Turkan, she could be proud to be part of the community of working women, and she is  “not the only one trying to run a business while raising a child and struggling to succeed in both simultaneously”.

Shimrit’s Reflections

Through the mentoring relationship, Shimrit “gained knowledge of a new culture” as well as having  “learned about doing business in a new sector or market”.  Shimrit was also pleased that the programme allowed her to create a long-lasting, professional relationship with Turkan, and was a chance for her “to make a positive change in Turkan’s life”.

Click here for more information on our Mentoring Women in Business programme. You can help empower over 100,000 more women like Turkan to create better futures for themselves, their families, their communities and the world by supporting our 100,000 Women Campaign.

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