Every woman has a story to tell, a story of her life, achievements and disappointments. Yet Aynur Demirtekin, a mother of seven living in the southeastern province of Mardin, possesses more than what many would consider a usual collection of memories for men and women alike.
Making her start in the business world with a single sewing machine, she could only make purchases using a microcredit loan of TL 700 ($395) and building a mid-sized firm that today has 20 workers on its payroll only five years after its founding. Demirtekin’s is an inspirational story, encouraging for others who are dreaming of being a business owner one day as well.
Demirtekin was born in Adana into a poor family her late father, a tailor by profession, could hardly take care of with his humble earnings. Yet she always admired her father, who would spend tireless nights working to make ends meet for his family. Maybe that’s why she, too, wanted to become a tailor herself, building dresses for dolls with pieces of fabric left over from her father’s work when she was a kid. For the better part of her life she did not, however, have the choice to pursue her dreams. Bringing seven children to life, seeing them grow up while also tending to housework of all kinds must have left her little time to even dream.
Things for her, however, took a turn for the better a few years after her family decided to move to Mardin, which offered them a cheaper life than metropolitan Adana. When she heard of the Turkish Grameen Microcredit Program (TGMP), she did not know she was about to embrace the golden opportunity of her life. After the paperwork, she was eligible to use a mini loan of TL 700 from the program’s fund. She had but one thing to buy: a sewing machine so she could finally become a tailor.
She indeed became one, delivering first small pieces for residents in her neighborhood. She truly was talented in what she did for a living but more importantly she was entrepreneurial in spirit. When she could not meet the growing demand on her own, she did not hesitate to hire, over time employing seven women who could also sew professionally. And when she fully repaid her debt at the end of her first year in the business, she was already the owner a small enterprise and a registered tax payer. She, at the same time, was also eligible to receive a much larger loan -- to the order of TL 4,000 -- so did she apply. Handing her the new check were Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself together with Professor Aziz Akgül, pioneer of microcredit practices in Turkey -- and also the head of the Turkish Foundation of Prevention of Wastefulness -- in 2008. And it was only recently that she received her latest loan of TL 10,000 after having notably developed her business into a breadwinning enterprise for 13 more women.
In Mardin, where Demirtekin today lives and has her business operations in full swing, nearly 2,000 women have already opened their own businesses, taking advantage of similar microloans made available to them by Akgül’s foundation. For Sadiye Ayhan, the foundation’s provincial branch head, Demirtekin stands as an excellent example for many more humble entrepreneurs to follow in her footsteps.