Osamah was a mechanical engineering student in Syria before moving to Turkey in 2012. Osamah teamed up with his friend and soon-to be business partner to launch a small design and printing company. “At first, we teamed up with Turkish print-houses to custom design and print small booklets and notepads. Now, we’ve started printing on other objects including mugs, pens, other office supplies and stationery. We started this company, to cater to INGOs, and [Syrian-led] NGOs and businesses in the market. Now, we can cover almost 80% of the printing needs of our clients. We’ve had clients in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Germany, and are looking to expand our client base across the Middle East and possibly Europe. We now also own shares of the printing machinery!”
As a first-time entrepreneur, Osamah admits that him and his partner were fortunate to receive financial support from their families, both of whom have worked in the trade business, “Our families encouraged us to start our own business, and with their support, we were able to stand on our own feet in time.”
As young business owners in their early twenties, Osamah faced a unique challenge of building a reputation for his company in an arena dominated by seasoned and more established firms. “…And so we grew beards and bought suits!” he says with a hearty chuckle. Jokes aside, Osamah admits that understanding Turkish business culture and the regulatory environment was a challenge when starting his company, for which they retained the services of a local lawyer. “But it’s tough. As a business owner, you should always be prepared for failure. We came close to going bankrupt twice, because we were doing all of this for the first time, in an unfamiliar country. We were able to overcome this thanks to the financial support of our families but other businesses may not be so fortunate…Freedom of movement is also a problem for us”, he adds. “Even though we have plans to expand, because of visa restrictions, we have a lot of difficulty travelling on our Syrian passports.”
His advice for budding entrepreneurs is to build strong relationships and networks, to know your market [competitive advantage], product, and to not be afraid about getting outside support with to help with understanding and complying with local laws and regulations.