Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible wellness, fashion and beauty entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week, we speak to the Founder and CEO of The Saffron Souk, Fatima Qasim, the regional distributor of The Jacksons, a line of unique and fun jute bags designed in London and handmade in Bangladesh, that embody artisan culture and sustainable production, with a touch of individuality.

Here, Fatima shares her entrepreneurial path that led to her design journey that provides social impact to artisans in Bangladesh.

Fatima Qasim, Founder and CEO of The Saffron Souk

What was your favourite subject at school?

History! The history of the Middle East has always fascinated me and I actually did my undergrad in Middle Eastern Studies.

What was your first job?

After I graduated, I started working for Barclays Bank, which is why I think I’ve always had a knack for numbers.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

I wanted to get away from the cold in Toronto, explore the history I had studied in college and the desire to try something new.

What inspired you to enter the accessories space?

The Jacksons! But also the fact that there are so many amazing small brands, creating wonderful products, they need a spotlight.

Talk us through the concept of The Jacksons.

The Jacksons is is an artisanal brand of jute bags, designed in London and handmade in Bangladesh. At it’s core The Jacksons aims to be an ethical brand taking a responsible approach to materials and the planet whilst helping to strengthen women’s role in society, by providing steady employment to more than 1500 artisans all year round. The bags are made from 100% jute material, they’re fun, colorful and versatile. Anyone who sees the bags is immediately hooked because they’re such a statement piece and thats what sets them apart. So you’re not only buying a bag you’re also supporting a good cause which makes the bag even more special that it already is.

What are the key elements of your role?

As CEO of The Saffron Souk, I oversee the running of the business, the operations, the products we stock, new brands, marketing… I basically wear a lot of hats.

Talk us through your daily routine.

It’s a juggle of being a single mum and a business owner. I’m fortunate that I can work around my son, but I won’t lie, my days are pretty full on. From school routines to meetings, running the business and everything in between, there are not enough hours in the day. I am working on more work life balance though and I think it’s part of why I work with the brands that I do. I’d love to be able to help small businesses get the attention they deserve.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

Be disciplined, whatever you choose to do, own it and do it well. Stand for something, believe in yourself and stay true to what you set out to do.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Take the plunge!

And what is the worst?

Status quo has its merits…. It really doesn’t.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Leaving a corporate structure, with predictability and stability was hard at first. Running a business is the complete opposite, but it’s also something that takes resilience. Every day is a challenge and no two days are the same, but each night when I put my head down, I really feel I’ve got through at least a dozen milestones, obstacles and made a difference in someone’s day.

What are your future goals and plans for your career?

Honestly, it’s to go with the flow, but with the aim of working with brands that have meaning, purpose and genuinely bring creativity to what can feel like a saturated space at times. I’d like to grow The Saffron Souk of course, but without straying too far from the smaller brands we set out to work with in the first place.

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