In conversation with Samar Hassan –Pakistani Startup’s ‘Epiphany’!
Safwa Mir was in conversation with Samar Hassan for Startup.pk and we are in awe of the amazingly informative interview between the two. Samar Hasan is a well-known face of Epiphany for women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s eco-system.
This interview brought to highlight some insights from Samar’s point of view, having a first-hand experience at many things, especially starting Epiphany. She recalls how this began for her, an Epiphany; a moment of sudden realization. Leaving a well settled job to start something of her own was Samar’s bold step to answer her feelings and grasp her moment of realization.
In turn it became more unique when the intention was to help others realize their dreams. What began as a simple concept evolved to become a catalyst for social entrepreneurship for women and then to creative entrepreneurship?
The impact this was intended to have was to bridge the gap in Pakistan’s aging Social entrepreneurship capacity building. Samar identified that in a country as big as ours, many problems were best suited to be solved by social entrepreneurs; however, there was a deficit in their promotion and training. Epiphany helped to bridge that gap.
The journey is never easy though. Samar explains that talent needs to be sifted. There are people driven by passion and self-motivation, who keep challenging themselves. Unfortunately, in Pakistan not many people are motivated to acquire knowledge. This creates a lot of difference in approach and the flaw lies, perhaps, with our education system that trains youth to acquire knowledge or skill to only achieve a job. It fails to inculcate in them the desire to progress and use that knowledge creatively.
Samar believes it is important to have a mentor or a guide who can help you through ones startup journey, though she agrees that the young entrepreneurs need to create a filter where they learn to take advice from experts but also know which is applicable to them at that moment and which they must leave for future or altogether. Samar and Epiphany help them through this process. They guide them on how to treat their startup like their baby, which only the parent, in this case founder, knows how to handle and nourish.
Samar aptly explains how the problem lies with our eco-system, with pressure on startups to raise investments to prove credibility. Instead she believes startups must look inwards for certain things:
Samar reflects how she set up an office at the beginning of her journey; something she no believes was a waste of her resources at that stage. So optimizing the limited resources that startups have is very crucial. One can always avail the shared working spaces, a concept gaining popularity in Pakistan, such as NIC and WeCreate. It can save the unnecessary costs as well as help you build networks through community interaction. However, it can come at the expense of lack of privacy or ones ideas vulnerable to being copied.
Finding the right team is crucial, perhaps like finding a life partner! One has to see what the next person is bringing to the table and how driven and motivated they are for working towards the goal. It was not difficult for Samar to work remote due to Covid because most of their team was resourced remotely. Though again problems of infrastructure can hinder the work, but she believes that it is the new normal.
Safwa implores the challenges that women as entrepreneurs face in Pakistan and how Samar fought it. The issue is deeply entrenched in our society as we try to break the system. Women, she believes, miss out on many decision making things are the simple reason of their gender and she argues that it will stay there for long.
What can be done is how to bring gradual change. The debate has wrongly been turned in to a man-hating one whereas it ought to have included men as allies for women. We must capitalize on our natural inborn talents and skills, such as great negotiations and hard-work to name a few. This can be achieved through delicate diplomacy of carving our space, as Samar puts it. Women need to be trained to be confident and taught the work life balance and Samar helps towards this goal though webinars like smash it.
It is very important for startups to create and impact. They must focus their energies on creating a solution for a problem. It is equally important for them to acquire knowledge and improve continuously. There are many platforms which have tons of information for aspiring startups, which mentor and guide others, and conferences that help bridge them with the market. What Samar see lacking is the desire to keep changing for the better, the bug that needs to keep bothering you to evolve. And to sum it up, they should keep persisting to achieve their dreams.