From E-mail Novice to Digital Entrepreneur: Rahaf Shami's Inspirational Journey
"When I started my company, I didn't have any income for more than six months. Now we have over 30 clients!" Rahaf Shami, a determined Syrian entrepreneur, established her digital services business with the support of the DAHIL programme by SPARK.
Rahaf Shami, a studious woman in Gaziantep Türkiye, is a testament to her unwavering determination and relentless hard work. When she first arrived in Türkiye, she took on the babysitter job, using her English skills to communicate with the child as the mother wanted. It was during this time that her dedication caught the attention of the child’s mother.
Impressed by Rahaf’s linguistic abilities and work ethic, the mother asked her to help translate her academic research about Saudi Arabia. Rahaf eagerly accepted the task and worked tirelessly, burning the midnight oil to improve her skills and deliver exceptional results. Her commitment did not go unnoticed, and the mother was so impressed by her work that she recommended Rahaf to her husband for a job at a non-governmental organisation called Balad.
From initially not knowing how to write an email, Rahaf’s determination led her to devour reports, seek knowledge day and night, and continuously push herself to improve. Her efforts paid off as she soon found herself flooded with job offers as both a full-time employee and a freelancer as translator, proposal writer, digital content creator, gaining a reputation as a highly sought-after professional. She had worked at more than 5 international organisations until she decided to open her own company.
Path to establishing her company
When she felt ready, Rahaf took a leap of faith and established her digital entrepreneurship company called ASP Team (Advocacy and Support Provider team for Solutions and Capacity Development). ASP Team provides proposal preparation and consultation services about education, protection, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), shelter, and IT development services to Turkish and Syrian organisations and companies. Despite quitting her other job and facing six months without income, Rahaf persevered, knowing that without risk there would be no reward.
SPARK’s DAHIL programme funded by the European Union became a vital source of support for Rahaf when setting up and registering her company. She states “ I want to thank SPARK for their continuous support. The beginnings are always hard. During this challenging time, they gave me a hand and helped me so much through their Findeks and Credit Score training, leadership consultation, legal advice, and for material support. I am also grateful to be able to attend the Business Networking Event on February 23 in Gaziantep. During this event, I partnered with a Turkish company. Business Networking Event contributed to the social cohesion; so that I could reach Turkish people. I also want to support the Turkish community, besides the Syrian community. I am in Türkiye, and here is my second home, maybe my first!”.
By 2030, digital technology is projected to remain the fastest-growing sector in most fragile states. SPARK’s new Strategy 2030 puts a spotlight on digital technology, supporting innovative new tech startups and helping SMEs to digitalise their companies to reach new markets.
Today, ASP Team has thrived for over three years, serving clients in education, protection, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), shelter, and consultation. With a team of over 20 employees, some based in Syria and others in Gaziantep, Türkiye, Rahaf has created employment opportunities for herself and others.
Five women in her team work remotely without strict time constraints, acknowledging the multiple responsibilities that women often juggle. Rahaf believes in supporting passionate women and encourages them to deliver projects in a way that suits their circumstances. Her company has established partnerships with more than thirty Syrian and Turkish organisations and companies, expanding its reach and impact.
Rahaf takes immense pride in her journey to becoming a CEO. She inspires others, encouraging them to believe in themselves and chase their dreams. Through her perseverance and unwavering spirit, Rahaf has shown that anything is possible with hard work, determination, and the proper support.