Lessons from Women Entrepreneurs in Chicago: A Souvenir too Big for My Suitcase

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Note: This post was written by Hanar, a women’s rights activist who interned at Lightspan for two weeks as part of the Active Citizens Summit 2.0 program.

On a cold windy day I arrived in Chicago, a city full of female entrepreneurs.  Even from the airport, I witnessed women working hard to serve people with a warm and open heart. Through ACYPL, Lightspan Digital is where I’ve been interning for the past two weeks and where I was able to interview several successful women living and working in Chicago. Observing these women who want to prove their ability to the world makes me wish that women in my home country had the same outlook. Unfortunately in my home country of Northern Iraq, women tend to have regular jobs without trying to improve and invest in their abilities.  I have come to believe that environment and culture play a big role in motivation and creating change. There are some active and ambitious women, but they are the minority in my country. The three women I interviewed are all leaders in the Chicago community and whose stories can be inspiring examples for women back home.

I first talked to Dusty, the founder of Ink Factory. Dusty’s qualification as a graphic facilitator encouraged her to execute her idea for a business- a graphic design company. When I asked her about being a female entrepreneur, she replied, “To be honest with you, I never thought about how being a female would differentiate the situation for me. This is just been my work and skill set. But I guess I was raised in an environment that helped me to move forward.” The encouragement she received along the way encouraged her to not stop without achieving her goals. Dusty never thought that being a female would change or limit her work, which is different than other females who are living in various places in the world.

"I guess I was raised in an environment  that helped me to move forward"

On the other hand, Northy, the founder and the manager of an energy and therapy massage center called Now Studio, had another point of view. When she decided to open, her family did not welcome the idea so easily. They doubted her ability to run a business because as she said, “being a female is hard, we are viewed as more nurturing and caring and passionate.” However, she did not stop and so she followed her dream to do whatever she liked. My admiration of Northy grew when I realized that she opened the place after having an accident which led her to think more about people and to help them however she could. She wants to give people balance between their job and their own time. “I take care of myself, I do everything that I tell people and I have a work, life balance,” said Northy. “A great and successful business starts when you strongly attach your beliefs with it and try to practice it in your daily life with your clients.“

"I had to do it to make myself happy"

Another inspiring woman that I spoke with was an associate of Heather Crospy, the founder of Yum Universe. After having some health issues, Heather decided to spread awareness about the food people are eating to help her community be more careful about their daily intake of fatty food. Interviewing her associate gave me more clarification about how this one amazing woman is insisting on changing society by reducing health issues that people develop through bad habits. I was intrigued by learning more about how one woman can make a difference in her community, as I am trying to do the same in mine.

"People finally woke up to realize what's good for their health"

I am keen to see Kurdish women have the courage and the motivation to do more in their society. When we face a challenge, we tend to hide and give up when instead we should teach others that there are ways we can overcome and face these challenges with pride… and that’s what I witnessed in these women I interviewed. My cause is to help women all over the world by motivating them to always show their skills and never stop what they are doing. I have established the first English magazine for women in my country because I want to show the world that yes, there are strong and brave women everywhere. I want to show that there are women who suffer every day in order to get their very basic right– liberty. I could not stop there, and now I am producing my own TV program that will focus on women’s issues in Kurdistan.  

I hope that I can play a very simple role in changing women’s rights in my country. The women I interviewed have faced some difficulties and they have worked on preventing others from going through the same. This is what’s called humanity: to love, care, support and teach. These are success stories of a few women, but I am sure this country has many more from other brave females who have dedicated their life for a greater change. Life is not as easy as we think, and fighting for our cause is what makes it interesting.

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Writer and content strategist Myles Dannhausen joined Lightspan in September of 2012. The new West Town resident brings a decade of experience as a writer, reporter and editor and small business owner to Lightspan.
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