Afghan Widow Turns Hobby Into Small Business

Soraya is using a USAID-provided knitting machine to make a scarf.
Soraya Noori uses a USAID-provided knitting machine to make a scarf.
USAID
Knitted clothing enterprise pays family expenses, generates jobs
“I am able to pay for the food, school and health of my children with the income I receive from my business.”

July 2017—Soraya Noori learned to knit from her mother at age 13. Although marriage kept her too busy to take up her childhood hobby, the death of her husband changed her calculation. Facing the need to support her six children, what once was an enjoyable digression became a marketable skill.

Noori founded Etamad Handicrafts in 2004. The company makes handmade clothing for both adults and children modeled after commercially produced knit clothing. Noori’s secret to attracting repeat customers is her commitment to make her clothes higher quality than most imports. The company steadily grew to seven employees, producing about 100 garments a month.

Even at that level of production, Noori’s customers clamored for more. However, without updating the company’s equipment, Noori would never be able to keep up with demand. She approached USAID’s Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises (ABADE) program for help in 2016. ABADE partners with small and medium enterprises to invest in business expansion.

With support from USAID, Etamad Handicrafts acquired new electric sewing machines and manual knitting machines that allow workers to knit a range of products efficiently. The company has even expanded its garment line to include gloves, bags and scarves.

“Our customers like the new designs, color selection, and quality of yarn,” said Noori. “I knit very good boys’ jackets, which many people like.” She added that “I am able to pay for the food, school and health of my children with the income I receive from my business.”

Noori’s business is also providing jobs for local women and young people. Since investing in the new equipment, she has hired 11 new employees.

Since 2012, ABADE has helped 400 Afghan small and medium enterprises grow or diversify by providing equipment, technical support, or training. The project ended in April 2017.

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Last updated: July 24, 2017

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