Saima Eqan, who identifies her Miracle Moment to be the birth of her first child, is equally passionate about her home-based bakery business, Slice of Life. She says “My children and my business are my creation and I have to take them forward together.” She agrees she could have given her children more time if she was not a working mother but also believes a working mum gives her children many reasons to be proud of her. “My children were extremely excited that I was chosen as one of the Miracle Women for 2016 by Ponds and are very happy that I am here today talking about my journey,” says Saima, now a mother of 3, with a proud smile.
Saima started her career in the field of advertising. However, after the birth of her first born, she decided that being a mother, she will not be able to be true to the demands of her job. It was then when she took to starting a home –based baking business and later on also went to the UK to receive formal training to master the art of bread baking. She felt that if she has to take this forward seriously, then it is imperative to have proper qualification to be able to give this her one hundred percent. Though her business was well received by friends and family and grew steadily based on word of mouth, it was when a friend of hers sent bread baked by her to a restaurant that changed things for her. From then on, the restaurant asked her to supply bread to them on a daily basis and then more restaurants jumped on the bandwagon. Saima finally had to expand and hire labour to support her ever growing baking business. “Making 10-12 breads per day is no big deal. But 20-25 is very difficult if you’re doing it all by yourself! I realised if I want to excel in this, I have to take it forward. That was the day I decided this is what I am going to do in life.”
However, Saima’s journey as an entrepreneur has not been free of struggles. “One major problem is suppliers. It is difficult to find suppliers in Pakistan who can provide the required machinery. Another issue is labour – I make great efforts to teach and train them and then they leave at the drop of the hat without prior notice, leaving me high and dry. In addition, getting constant raw material is a major issue. If your flour is not of the same high quality, your bread cannot be of the best quality.” Saima explains. Sometimes, she also gets bogged down by running a business and raising 3 children simultaneously but is lucky to have children who want to see her to grow. National holidays are not off-days for her – they are in fact busier! But, with the support of her family she is able to keep afloat.
Saima believes that financial and emotional independence are interlinked. Earning her own money gives a woman a sense of satisfaction but she also realises that not all women in Pakistan have that option, even if they would like to. Females do not have many opportunities. In addition, she also sees gender inequality as an issue in this country. “Workers don’t take female bosses seriously so I have to keep my distance, though this is not my preferred style. But, if I try to be myself while at work, issues eventually arise and I have to part ways with them. Similarly, suppliers also don’t take women seriously so I try to deal with them over e-mail and avoid talking on the phone,” Saima says.
Miracle Woman Saima Eqan could have chosen to give up being a working woman after being presented with the responsibilities of a wife and a mother, like many women in this country do. But she decided to go out there, make a change, pursue it and carve out a path of success and contentment for herself. Her journey bears testament to the fact that every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.