December 8, 2021

Syrian woman learns from her first failed electronics startup

Despite failing in her first startup that designed and manufactured electronic boards, Syrian Economics graduate, Maryam, is working on her next business idea with an incubation programme by SPARK and BINA.

As the Syrian war escalated, the conflict had arrived at Maryam Mando’s doorstep. The young Syrian woman from Homs left her city for Turkey in 2014. 

“We had no choice but to leave,” she says. “I took one final look at the blue sky and the beautiful flowers on the trees to memorise my beloved city. On the way to Turkey, I promised myself and my parents that one day I would become a successful entrepreneur and come back to my country to help it rise from the ashes.” 

In the pursuit of her dreams, she began applying for universities in Turkey. She secured a place at the Economics faculty of the University of Gaziantep, located around 90 kilometers from where she lived. 

“From home to school, I used to commute 180km every day,” says Maryam. With the scholarship support of the European Union, through the EU Regional Trust Fund, in response to the Syrian crisis, the ‘MADAD’ fund, she was able to accept the position and afford the fare to travel every day through student stipends. “Words can not describe the importance of the scholarship I got from SPARK.” 

During Maryam’s third year at university, she learned of the entrepreneurship training offered by SPARK. She says: “I was very excited when I came to know about SPARK’s entrepreneurship training. I said to myself: I cannot miss this opportunity.” 

The training allowed Maryam to meet like-minded entrepreneurs. It gave her the tools to work on her own business plan and is where she met her Turkish business partner. She learned how to use C Sharp, a programming language, and during a business plan competition in 2019, she won €8,000 in seed funding to kickstart her new enterprise. 

Maryam Mando received €8,000 during a business plan competition © 2020, SPARK
Maryam's business designed and manufactured electronic boards © 2020, SPARK

Maryam’s business used artificial intelligence (AI) and designed and manufactured electronic boards for use in TVs, computers and other consumer electronics. During Ramadan 2020, Maryam was commissioned to deliver 500 electronic boards to a client. 

However, entrepreneurship is not an easy path, especially for young entrepreneurs in fragile states. In fact, research shows that between 10-20% of small businesses fail in their first year. The failure rate for refugee-led businesses is even higher and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on Maryam’s business.

Due to shortcomings in sales needed to keep her business up and running, Maryam and her business partner decided to end their partnership in 2021. However, Maryam’s story is typical of many first-time entrepreneurs who learn from their mistakes. Despite failing at her first attempt, her determination to become a successful entrepreneur keeps her motivated to chase after her dreams. 

Currently, she is enrolled at SPARK’s business incubation programme with BINA, financed by Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD). Maryam aims to improve her sales and marketing skills which, according to her, are one of the reasons she failed. Additionally, she wants to diligently select her future business partner. “I learnt a lot from my failure and now I feel much more confident and experienced. I will keep working, learning and trying until I finally achieve my dreams and help my country in the future,” she says.