Femmigrants - A New Online Platform for Women Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Femmigrants - A New Online Platform for Women Immigrant Entrepreneurs

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Ed. Note: When Ika Aliyeva left her native Azerbaijan in 2010 to live in the United Stated, she also left behind friends, family, and a network of colleagues and peers who could open doors and offer advice. Today, Aliyeva is founder and director of the Femigrants.org, an online platform that is collecting stories of women immigrants who have gone into business for themselves. Aliyeva says her goal is to “provide a platform where female immigrant entrepreneurs can come and ask for help and get the help they need.” She spoke with NAM Editor Peter Schurmann. 

When did you begin Femmigrants?

I launched the project a month ago. I’d been planning it for several months, but because I was so passionate about it I did not want to spend too much time preparing. I was working ‘til 2, 3 or 4 a.m. in order to finish what I needed to do to get it started. I spent about two months putting interviews and other materials together and did what I could in order to launch.

What gave you the idea for Femmigrants?

I am an immigrant here. I am originally from Azerbaijan, where I was very active. I participated in a variety of social projects, and worked to develop my knowledge and to be successful in my career. But as I thought about my life here in the United States compared to Azerbaijan, I realized how much harder it was for me, as a female immigrant, to become an entrepreneur here. I didn’t know how to open a business, I didn’t have a network to rely on. When my husband and I launched our first business, I was pregnant with my second child. It was so difficult, so challenging for me to go to the office with one kid next to me and my big belly. And I thought about all the women who don’t have any help or network, and that is when it occurred to me to build a platform for female immigrants who want to open a business but don’t know how to start, or what to do. Maybe they need some motivation; maybe they have an idea, but they are afraid to do it. So that’s how the idea came to me.

How do you see the relevance of your project given the current political climate?

I have to say, this is another reason I launched the project. I wanted to highlight immigrant females living here, the things they do and the struggles they face. It is not easy to be in a country and start from zero. There are thousands of women who had such good lives back in their home country. They had careers and networks. And they had families. But they decided to change their lives, to start from scratch in America. And people should know the kinds of struggles and challenges they face in order to succeed.

What is unique about the female immigrant entrepreneur experience?

Before launching the project, I spoke with a number of women. And what I learned was that for women immigrants it can be much more difficult to go out and search for work that it is for men. Especially in male-dominated industries, it’s so much easier for a man to walk in and seek help, whether in finding a job or starting a business. It’s more challenging for women immigrants, so why not create something that can offer some help in their struggles?

Is there a story that strikes you from the interviews you’ve done?

I remember my first interview. She was in her 60s, and 30 years ago she started working for an electrical repair company. Her manager at the time criticized her, saying that as a woman her hands were too small to do the work. ‘Why are you here?’ he asked her. She was so angered she decided to become an expert in that field. Eventually, his insult is what encouraged her to open her own business.

In a questionnaire you ask women entrepreneurs what their biggest fear is. What have some of the responses been?

Most of them say they are afraid of making a mistake. They are afraid they will not be successful, or that in the end their business won’t be accepted by the community. They also say the most challenging part is just getting started.

What is the long term goal for Femmigrants?

I want to build a trusted network for female immigrants where we can support female entrepreneurs if they need help with things like marketing, or if they just need advice. My goal is to build a robust female immigrant entrepreneurs network where members can get advice from mentors or they can get education on time management, leadership, or how to open a business. My goal is to provide a platform where female immigrants can come and ask for help and get the help they need.