Building Up Her Business with Heart

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Zahraa's employees prepare Kubba, a popular Iraqi dish, by hand.

Despite the odds, Zahraa*, 49, is an entrepreneur who has always found a way to succeed. What started as a small business selling dishes like kubba (rice and meat dumplings) out of her kitchen in Baghdad in the 90’s gradually transformed into a thriving business with its own factory, offering a wide range of new prepared dishes for her customers. In 2007, while at the height of her career, Zahraa was forced to leave her home in Baghdad for security concerns. She decided to relocate to Erbil and restart her business in a new city. “During the invasion, my factory was looted. I didn’t have anything left in Baghdad, so I came to Kurdistan because it was safer for me,” she said. 

Today, Zahraa’s factory supplies major distributors in Erbil, Baghdad, and Salah ad Din. Offering 21 types of food items, her company provides hotels, supermarkets, companies, and individual consumers with its products. There are both frozen and ready-to-eat meals, including Mosul kubbas, burgers, and potato dumplings. Her factory is fully female staffed, with a total of 15 employees. Having been displaced in the past, Zahraa decided to only hire only Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees to help them find stability through a regular source of income. 

As her business continues to grow, she is worried about the efficiency of her production line. “We are in the process of signing a contract with a major oil refinery of 10,000 employees. This is a good step for us, but it would require us to automate our production.” At this stage, Zahraa cannot sign the contract until she can increase her production capacity to respond to such large orders.

Through discussions with USAID, Zahraa assessed her factory’s needs and decided to automate different processes to increase production rates while maintaining consistent size and quality of her products. 

With USAID’s support, Zahraa will be able to purchase new machines and upgrade her factory with modern equipment. She will also hire additional employees to operate the machines. “USAID’s support will allow me to sign with bigger clients and wholesalers who are interested in my products. I hope to be able to hire more women who are seeking jobs and open new branches in different parts of Iraq” she said. 

*Pseudonym is used to protect the beneficiary’s privacy. 


Last updated: May 10, 2022

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