Name: Zeinab Wazzan
Business: Cosmetic and Food-Enhancing Plant Extract
LIFE Cohort: 1st Cohort, Mersin
Home Country: Syria
Originally from Latakia, Syria, Zeinab studied fine arts and taught painting. Her father and uncle were well known Attars, people who extract natural essence from flowers and plants for health benefits. As a child, she was fascinated by how her father extracted flower essence: “We had a garden with lemon trees and we would gather the flowers of the lemon tree together to extract the essence [...] After he passed away, I carried on and started first distributing bottles of plant extracts in his honor, as he would have done if he was alive. I then started selling them and generating revenue.” Identifying a lucrative business venture, Zeinab started producing flower essence to sell for health benefits and food flavoring and sold bottles in her uncle’s shop in Latakia’s Hanano street.
When the war broke out in Syria, Zeinab moved first to Antakya and then to Mersin. She was immediately attracted to the flowers there. “After some doing market research, I learned that in Mersin, and Turkey in general, the essence of flowers is not extracted in a natural way- it is just for commercial use and it is not natural at all.” Realizing that there was an opportunity in the Turkish market for natural flower extracts, Zeinab coordinated the retrieval of the machine she used in Latakia to extract the essence of plants. With the machine and flowers imported from Syria, she began her business and is doing well, “A month ago, a merchant from Latakia bought all my flower essence bottles to export them to the Netherlands.”
After graduating from the first cohort in Mersin, Zeinab reflected on her experience in the LIFE Project incubation program: “My experience in [the LIFE Project] was very positive. I was introduced to many people and specifically benefited from the training related to the techniques for pitching my business.” As one of the winner’s of the first business competition in Mersin, Zeinab plans to use the seed funding she received to buy two more machines to increase production. She is planning to partner with fellow LIFE members to develop her business and offer them income generating opportunities. “I dream of having my product with my own name,” she says.
UPDATE June 2020: After sharing her product with “Tea’n Cake,” a cafe located in one of Mersin’s largest shopping centers, Zeinab now supplies her rose water and other extracts to the cafe.