When a woman is empowered, women are empowered. Each new achievement reinforces us all.

Hana Awwad

When I decided to change careers, I was scared of having regrets. Now my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

After 6 years of medical school and 4 years as a practicing doctor, Hana Awwad took the brave decision to change from a career that wasn’t satisfying her, and start her own business using her passion for design to fill a gap in the greetings card market. The Women’s Organisation gave her all the support and encouragement she needed to take this bold step.

Working in design was a dream for Hana Awwad, but a dream that she thought she would never realise after studying medicine for 6 years and establishing a career as a doctor.

Liverpool resident Hana said: “I had a long standing passion for design, but I didn’t want to just give up on a career I had worked hard for. I stuck it out for 10 years, but inevitably I came to the realisation that it just wasn’t the career for me. It took courage to admit it and decide to follow my dream. Some people were shocked, but I had a lot of support from my family and friends, and most people were very encouraging.”

Hana took the brave step of returning to University to re-train, and graduated from a degree in Textiles in 2012. It was during her studies that her business idea started to form.

 “Where I went to Uni there was a large Muslim community.  I noticed a gap in the market for high quality greeting cards recognising different cultural and religious celebration than those we usually see in the shops. While at Uni I used this idea to trial a few designs in Muslim bookshops around the UK.  The response was positive and so I was keen to take it further.”

Hana contacted The Women’s Organisation for help to take her idea to the next level and establish a design business. “I have always wanted to work for myself. I found the idea of business exciting and being creative I wanted to combine the two to start a business that utilised all my skills,“ she explains. “The Women’s Organisation gave me a lot of help and advice.  They got me started on a business plan.  I didn’t have a clue.”

Hana set up ‘Chocolate Envelope Designs’, which has built on her original idea, introducing more designs that are popular for all faiths and cultures. She offers greeting cards for all occasions including her initial designs, and now prints her own range of wrapping paper.

Reflecting on her decision Hana said “I am the happiest I have ever been. The reaction I get to my designs and the fact that people part with their money for something I’ve created is really exciting. When I decided to change careers it was because I was scared of having regrets. Now my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!”

Hana’s advice to other women who are considering following in her footsteps and setting up a business: “It takes support, patience and being realistic. Get advice to ensure your business is viable. If you need to ease yourself in gradually starting part time while working part time, then do that. Follow your dreams, but be realistic. Choose something you are happy and excited about, because then you will be motivated. When you are motivated you can push your business forward. Keep at it and believe.”

More than twice as many men than women are self employed: 14% of men, 6% of women.
source: Fawcett - The changing labour market
Women in full-time work currently earn an average of 15% less per hour than men
source: Fawcett - The changing labour market
"I think you should take your job seriously, but not yourself, that is the best combination"
source: Dame Judi Dench
In 2010, 104 million women in 59 countries started and managed new business ventures
source: GEM 2010 - Women's Report
30,000 women every year lose their jobs as a result of becoming pregnant.
source: GEM 2010 - Women's Report
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any"
source: Alice Walker


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