FWEN Profile: Hayfa & Ayat

Name: Hayfa and Ayat
Age: 24 years old
Location: Balata refugee camp
Business Plan: Recycling Plant

How did you decide to participate in FWEN? What have you gained from the program?

When Hayfa and Ayat, two friends from Balata refugee camp, saw an advertisement for FWEN online, they knew it was the perfect opportunity for them to make their dream a reality. They had both graduated from An-Najah University in 2009 with degrees in chemical engineering, and their graduation project on recycling had won a scientific award from the Arab American University in Jenin. Hayfa and Ayat knew that they wanted to take the ideas from their award-winning project and turn it into a profitable and innovative business: to create the first recycling plant in Palestine.

The FWEN training has taught Hayfa and Ayat a number of important new skills, including building professional relationships, management skills, and critical thinking. They report, “We now have stronger personalities than before – it’s easy to call anyone, to deal with anyone. Now we are different than our girlfriends – we are ‘little’ businesswomen!” The women believe that the self-confidence they gained is particularly important given that they are now constantly dealing with men in a business context.

What is your business plan?

Their plan is to create a recycling plant that will take waste paper from throughout the West Bank and turn it into useful cardboard products. Their first product will be egg trays – a product with a high demand in Palestine, but without any local producers (they are currently imported from Israel or Turkey). Eventually they will expand into creating other paper products as well.

The plant will be located in the village of Dair Sharaf, to the west of Nablus, where Hayfa and Ayat will rent a building. They will purchase their primary input – waste paper – from a company that collects recycling from institutions like universities and ministries in Nablus and Ramallah. Their target market is the northern and central West Bank (the cities of the southern West Bank are too difficult for them to reach at the current time due to transport restrictions and checkpoints). They have already created a network of potential customers for their egg trays, agricultural traders that will then resell the trays to smaller farms that produce eggs.

Hayfa and Ayat have already conducted market studies using the training and skills they received in FWEN, and they are confident that their product will be both a higher quality and a lower cost than the imported egg trays, and that they will be able to provide added flexibility to their customers because their trays are locally produced and readily available.

What are your next steps? What help would you like to receive?

In order to launch their business, Hayfa and Ayat need funding – whether in the form of investment or loans – to start production. “Financial issues are the main challenge now,” says Hayfa. They also hope to gain some practical experience in their sector: “We need field training in a company or plant that specializes in recycling because here in Palestine we have no such companies.”

For the past two months, Ayat has been working as a coordinator at the Al-Nayzak Company, which works to encourage scientific innovation in students and young researchers. Once their recycling business is launched, she will try to continue this job if she can manage the time commitments. Otherwise, she says, she’s ready to leave her current job, because making their business a success is her first priority.

What are your dreams for the future, and how will your business help you to achieve them?

Hayfa’s dream is to run her own business – she enjoys the idea of being the boss rather than working for someone else, and thus being free to do what she wants. She also feels strongly about doing good for the community through creating a environmentally-conscious business: “My dream is to help the Palestinian environment and make it clean and green, and to improve and enhance the local economy.” Ayat agrees, saying it was her dream since she was young to do something that helped others: “I think this project is my dream.”

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