Samah Zingran is one of those rare women often spoken of but rarely encountered in these modern times, kind of like a unicorn! Maya Angelou once described this type of woman as, “a woman in harmony with her own spirit”.
This Khartoum born entrepreneur, who aspires to learn 7 languages- Russian being one of them, is interested in history, anthropology studies and psychology and is currently working on obtaining a masters in Folklore from the University of Khartoum.
Samah is the founder of the eponymous brand, Zingran, which creates gorgeous handcrafted leather accessories and bags.
What led you to start your own business?
I launched my business on two separate occasions. The first was as a result of what I call “a graduate rush”. I wanted to start making a living as an independent fashion designer as soon as possible. Sadly, my business failed to grow. I was doing it part-time and had just begun my postgraduate studies.
During this time, I volunteered many times to do other artist’s projects from different fields, theatre, music bands, fine art exhibitions…I was even once a translator! I never said no to a job, and rarely considered the financial gain.
My second chance at business came in 2017. At this point, it hit me that I must depend on myself and do what I’m passionate about.
I quit my job at the Embassy of Venezuela in Sudan and with the help of a friend who became my retailer in Juba, I got the boost I needed.
I never said no to a job, and rarely considered the financial gain - Samah Zingran Click To Tweet
How has your journey been so far?
This year, God awarded me generously by giving me the opportunity to attend a training given to selected creative entrepreneurs working in the East Africa region by the British council in Kampala and Nesta.
It exceeded my expectations and allowed me to connect with wonderful and enthusiastic teachers as well as students, build an essential network and learn many lessons- my greatest lesson being, “its okay if you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, you plan it anyway.”
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while running your business so far?
The most valuable lesson I learned was first taught by a friend, a very successful businesswoman in Sudan. She said to me:No one will do the job for you, you should take hold of every detail of your work, only then, will your work be done the way you want it. - Samah Zingran Click To Tweet
I must say, from my personal experience, this has proven to be very true.
What drives you to achieve the goals you set for yourself?
Love to create, and my passion to create new things has kept me going. I also find myself continually motivated by my Father- the first supporter of my work, my friends with all their great insights.
I love the look on people’s faces when they see what I’ve made for them, it’s a wonderful feeling when I see they like my work. It’s also incredibly humbling and it’s where I get my satisfaction from.
What is the business environment like for young female entrepreneurs in Sudan?
I’ve struggled to be an entrepreneur in Sudan simply because I am a woman. People ruin professional relationships by harassing girls or making them uncomfortable. Many don’t believe in the possibility that a woman can actually make great achievements in business.
However, the few times I overcame these challenges resulted in great networking opportunities with suppliers, retailers, and buyers. The experience has taught me to expect to be treated unfairly, to be undermined, not just because I am female but mostly because I am a female artist.
Through it all, the conviction instilled in me by my father, that I am no less than any other man kept my heart solid to these challenges.
Do you think being a female entrepreneur in a country like Sudan is an advantage or disadvantage?
I think it’s a huge advantage since recent studies show young women in our generation are more advanced both in higher education and work. Traditionally, in Sudan, women often times overtake the responsibility to provide- even if this particular fact is openly overlooked.
Therefore, despite the obstacles they go through, women in my country like all African women, are strong and thrive to work, invent, create and provide.
What I’d love to inspire them to do is to dream. To get inspired by recalling the heritage we have from ancient Feroh–queens (Kandake) who led wars and led nations, whose biggest dream wasn’t to simply provide for their families.
What has been your greatest challenge so far? How did you overcome it?
While a student in art school in 2017, I fell sick of Myasthenia Gravis. My desire to overcome this pushed me to work hard in school and I completed with flying colors.
However, when business pressures rushed in, I struggled, being a solopreneur and working 14 -16 hours a day to deliver took its toll on me. I eventually had to scale back on my business.
To support myself, I started working part-time with other artists temporarily which exposed me to some of their struggles. Eventually, I also educated myself on the disease I had and trained someone close to me so that I wasn’t alone in my journey.Keep feeding your passion because you are your own knight in shining armor - Samah Zingran Click To Tweet
If you could be mentored by anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I admire Meryl Streep, a well-known actress. I believe she is strong and has a great body of work- she has been nominated several times for the Oscars and various other awards.
She is a living embodiment of pure talent and is clear about her political and social opinions.
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs both in Sudan and across the African Continent?
Remember that dream of yours you once had when you were a little girl? Draw out its details and bring it to life.
You will struggle one way or another, you will meet pessimists and those who have given up on their own dreams-but never ever give up, keep feeding your passion because you are your own knight in shining armor.