About Shaheena Akhtar: Shaheena is an entrepreneur from strife-laden Jammu and Kashmir who excels at making high quality Pashmina and Kani shawls at her unit, Shaheen Handicrafts and currently caters to orders from the world over. Born to a coppersmith in Kashmir, Shaheena was the only child in the family to receive formal education as her brothers had to forego the same due to poverty. After completing her Bachelor of Arts from Govt. College for women in Srinagar in 2004, Shaheena wanted to pursue further education but family needs came first and she decided otherwise.
Entrepreneur’s Spirit: Even after completing her graduation, Shaheena never want to work for others and was confident about starting her own business. She wasn’t sure of the line of business though, but a self-employment training program that she attended at the Kashmir University in 2006 was a life-changing event for her. Her enthusiasm and confidence grabbed the attention of one of the trainers and suggested her to connect to the handicraft business and also accompanied her to the J&K handicrafts dept. where she was extended a loan of Rs. One Lac.
The Birth of Shaheen Handicrafts: The loan was a major catalyst for Shaheena and she began her own business of weaving shawls with only two workers to assist her. She herself had to pitch in to complete orders that she received and realised the difficulties of running one’s own business. Without a bank account to her name, transactions become quite a chore for Shaheena.
Support and Opposition: While many of her relatives were of the opinion that she wouldn’t last in this business that was largely male-dominated, her family especially her father, was confident about Shaheena’s work and encouraged her not to give up. In 2011, Shaheena was a recipient of 8.5 lacs as seed capital fund under SKEWPY, a Govt. run self-employment program and took the leap to the next level by expanding her shawl-making business.
About Pashmina: Pashmina shawls are loved and admired world over for their warmth and softness and Shaheena’s unit excelled at making some exquisite quality shawls for customers from around the world. Italy, France, Paris and Rome are a few places where her shawls have been displayed and sold not to mention the Indian market too. She has proved quite a few critics wrong in this process and is proud to be a game-changer in this male-dominated world of shawl-making.
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