Mehmet is one of three Syrian brothers. After the war began, Mehmet’s family moved their 200-employee business to Southern Turkey from Syria. Each brother currently manages a different division of the company, with Mehmet in charge of manufacturing leather shoes and accessories for women. His shoe factory is in the heart of the industrial district, and spans four floors, each packed to the ceiling with rolls of leather, rubber and other raw material. Upon entering the factory, one is struck by the rhythmic hum of machinery, set against the muffled voices of employees at work.
In moving their operations to Turkey, Mehmet recalls the challenges of re-establishing the family business in a foreign land. He describes the heavy toll it took on their family’s personal finances, because of the huge capital investment of purchasing new equipment, being unable to bring their machinery with them. “We were only able to bring one or two machines with us from Syria. You will not find anything like this anywhere else in the world”, he says, patting a life-sized contraption with knobs and levers, his expression lost somewhere between pride and forlorn.
You can tell he runs a tight ship from his office, which boasts a large flat screen display with a live feed of 24 CCTV cameras in a grid, allowing Mehmet to monitor the assembly line while closing deals with his clients.
When asked about his plans, Mehmet is ambitious. He hopes to expand operations by trading with other countries in the region, which he sees as an opportunity for growing his client base. His expansion plans also include opening additional factories in Turkey over the next 12 months. His current workforce includes 10 women, whom he employs full-time. These women, Mehmet tells us, are now the sole breadwinners for their households, having lost or been separated from their families in Syria. In contrast to the shrewd businessman, Mehmet shows a glimmer of his compassionate side, saying he feels it is his duty to do whatever he can to help these women support their families.