Sofia, 47, is a self made woman whose perseverance and hard work has rightly earned her the respect and admiration of everyone around her. Sofia was born and brought up in Peshawar, where she acquired her basic education. She hailed from a poor family, where hardships and problems came in big packages. Despite her tender age, Sofia understood the numerous difficulties her parents faced whilst coping with the ever increasing household expenses.
Sofia then got married, and the young lady took on the responsibility of a wife and soon became a mother â€“ with three kids and a husband Sofia would hardly get anytime for herself or for anything other than chores. In 2002, things at home started getting very tight, so much so that days would go by without Sofiaâ€™s family having a single decent meal. This was due to the fact that her husband had been relieved of his job and had virtually zero savings to live off from. With no-one to turn to and no support from anyone Sofiaâ€™s family was slowly led to the brink of starvation. Remembering her hardships Sofia says â€˜I can not remember of a worse time in my lifeâ€™. She further adds â€˜It is that day that I decided to use my skills and do whatever it takes to bring my family out of despair and see them smile again. I was determined to free my family from the grasp of extreme povertyâ€™.
Her familyâ€™s suffering gave her a renewed spirit that enabled her to withstand her miseries and work relentlessly towards appropriating a better life for her family and herself. With her new found resolve to work towards improving her situation, Sofia decided to hone her skills in knitting and soon mastered the art. Equipped with the required skills and the basic knowledge of various hand knitting techniques, Sofia began to knit and stitch (tailoring) clothes on a very small scale. All of these clothes were made by hand and were later sold at very reasonable prices.
The work she did was laborious and the earnings meager. Sofiaâ€™s work would help her generate an income of only PKR.4500 per month which needless say was insufficient to sustain her family of 5. Gradually, Sofia learnt how to knit clothes using machines from the local trainers in her area. Once she gained the pre requisite qualifications to start knitting clothes with the help of a machine, Sofia knew it was not be feasible to continue to knit by hand. She understood the importance of applying her skill for the sake of greater turnover, increased efficiency and more revenue.
Destitute Sofia though, had the skills, lacked the capital and finance required to buy a machine and setup her own place. Upon discussing her problem with some teachers at the training center, she was advised to take a loan from a Microfinance Institution.
In 2005 Sofia approached Khushhali Bank Ltd and took a loan from the same, with the help of which she bought a knitting machine and some wool from the local bazaar and started making sweaters, scarves and baby sets, which she sold in the neighborhood. This step enabled her to finance her husbandâ€™s business of cosmetics and boost her earnings to PKR 7000 per month as opposed to PKR 4500 per month. The realization that she had the power to turn around her life and the confidence and strength that followed proved to be beneficial for Sofiaâ€™s business. She was now driven to extend her business and push her limits so she could achieve her potential. She visited some nearby schools and presented samples of her knitted sweaters and scarves. The school authorities appreciated her samples and gave her an order of 200 school uniform sweaters and scarves. This was a happy moment in her life and a time of real zeal for her. But all the happiness and strength aside Sofia felt she needed a helper if she wanted to fulfill the orders on time.
In 2006 she approached Khushhali Bank Ltd for another loan. The loan was sanctioned and Sofia bought another machine and hired two more workers, thus lightening her work burden and allowing her to take on more orders. This time around Sofiaâ€™s business acumen guided her to buy raw materials from Lahore, resulting in high quality and more economical purchases. This enhanced her business and she continued to facilitate her spouse in furthering his business and establishing another business (toy shop). Her monthly income now increased to PKR 12000.
Sofiaâ€™s endeavors and tireless efforts had a significant impact on her business and her hard work was bearing fruit. In an attempt to further increase her revenue and be in a position to accept the influx of orders. Sofia applied for another loan as she needed to buy two more knitting machines and hire more help to realize her dreams and accept the business she was getting.
Today Sofia runs her own outlet of knitted garments which is a product of her self confidence, intelligence and her skills along with a little help from Khushhali Bank in the form of micro credit. The proceeds of this factory currently amount to PKR 14000-16000 per month. Sofia continues to weave more plans for her business and wants to establish a knitting center whereby she can optimize her earnings and extend her business into other cities. Sofia also plans on introducing a variety of high quality products based on latest designs by installing design cards in her machines. This will make her business more attractive and reach out to a wider market.
Her story is truly an inspirational one, whereby Sofia started from scratch and reached new heights. Her commitment and decision to take a loan and start her own work paid off and her courageous initiatives and determination truly transformed her life. Through her business Sofia was able to greatly increase her living standards and was also able to generate employment for her neighbors. Today she continues to support her spouseâ€™s business whilst managing and expanding her own business that is now flourishing. Her children who at one point in time had nothing to eat are now enrolled in good schools and are acquiring quality education. Her steadfast faith gave her the courage to overcome the harsh realities of life and the unimaginable adversity that came with it.Â Â
Her efforts, unwavering faith, self reliance, leadership qualities are simply mind blowing. This enterprising individual was recently acknowledged for her contributions to society and the economy by the â€˜Citi PPAF Awards 2008â€™ whereby she was chosen to be the â€˜National Runner up Best Female Entrepreneurâ€™ and was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 130,000 by Shaukat Tarin Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs & Statistics.