Checking in: GBA Members Honor Successful Women Entrepreneurs

Tuesday 9th January 2018

Continuing a strong tradition among GBA banks of supporting women doing great things in their businesses and in their communities, BLC Bank of Lebanon and Garanti Bank in Turkey recently presented their annual women entrepreneur awards.

BLC Bank launched their Brilliant Lebanese Awards in 2012 in an effort to further encourage entrepreneurship and support SMEs in Lebanon. The awards, which are open to all entrepreneurs in the country, acknowledge and honor business owners who have achieved excellence in their businesses, with finalists and winners selected following a highly competitive process. Winners receive a financial prize of US$30,000, recognition and media exposure for their businesses, access to local and international networks including linkages to venture capital, business development courses, and coaching and mentoring from the bank. The Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award is given out at the ceremony every year. This year’s winner, chosen from hundreds of applicants, was Nada Ghazal, founder of the jewelry company Nada G™.

Celebrating its 11th anniversary, Garanti Bank’s Turkey’s Women Entrepreneur Competition seeks to improve women’s social and economic welfare by creating role models for entrepreneurship and shining a spotlight on women breaking through barriers in the country. The awards, which feature four categories, are organized in partnership with the Turkish Women Entrepreneur’s Association (KAGIDER) and Ekonomist Magazine. Winners in the category of Turkey’s Woman Entrepreneur receive a prize of TL30,000 (US$7,750), and Turkey’s Promising Woman Entrepreneur, Turkey’s Woman Entrepreneur Who has Created a Difference in Her Region and Turkey’s Woman Social Entrepreneur receive TL25,000 ($US6,500) each. More than 34,000 women across Turkey applied for consideration this year, with five selected as winners. Sevginar Baştekin, founder of 1K Kimya, and Hande Çilingir, founder of Insider, were honored as Turkey’s Women Entrepreneurs, while Duygu Yılmaz of Biolive was chosen as Turkey’s Promising Woman Entrepreneur, Büşra Yapıcı of Petektar Tohum was named Turkey’s Woman Entrepreneur Who Has Created a Difference in Her Region and Ece Çiftçi, founder of SosyalBen Akademi, won Turkey’s Woman Social Entrepreneur.

Meet all the winners below:

BLC Bank’s Brilliant Lebanese Awards
Woman Entrepreneur of the Year

 Nada Ghazal

Nada’s love of design and creating began at the age of 6, when her grandmother started training her in the art of weaving. As an adult, she spent 10 years working for multinational advertising agencies in Dubai, winning multiple regional and international advertising awards and gaining a strong understanding of how to create and build brands. These experiences came together when Nada began weaving her first 18k gold jewelry pieces and decided to create her own company. Her first collection was launched in December 2003, comprising 25 hand-made rings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches. The pieces sold out immediately, and her business took off from there. The first Nada G boutique and workshop was opened in 2004, and since then the company has grown every year. Today Nada’s jewelry is available in major department stores across Lebanon.

Garanti Bank’s Turkey’s Women Entrepreneur Competition
Turkey’s Woman Entrepreneur 

Sevginar Baştekin

With undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry, Sevginar spent eight years working in the biochemical sector before deciding to start her own business in 2000. She saw a need for better stain removers and spent several years carrying out studies in this area in her lab. Her efforts paid off in 2004, when she won first place at the Private Label Fair in Chicago in the category of Innovation and Design. She founded 1K Kimya a few years later, in 2010, developing and producing silicon-based cleaning products under the brand name HighGenic. Sevginar has created 200 different formulas for cleaning applications so far, and she continues her research, which is now focused on using local Turkish minerals to produce detergents. Her products are available in a number of supermarket chains in Turkey, and in 5 years she hopes to take her business international by selling HighGenic in the US and Europe.

Hande Çilingir

Focusing on business growth for online sales companies, Insider is Hande Çilingir’s second entrepreneurial venture. She cut her teeth in the entrepreneurial world with an English language teaching company, English and More, which she founded after graduating from college. Insider, the multi-channel customer experience platform, offers digital companies customer behavior analysis, helping them increase sales and optimize their advertising costs. The company was listed in 2016 as one of Europe’s 100 Hottest Startups. Hande now has 15 offices across the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific regions, including Russia, Japan and South Korea. In 2018 she aims to offer services for global brands in 25 countries.

Garanti Bank’s Turkey’s Women Entrepreneur Competition
Turkey’s Promising Woman Entrepreneur 

Duygu Yılmaz

Duygu became inspired to create sustainable plastic out of olive pits while completing a master’s degree at Istanbul Technical University. She enrolled in the university’s Incubation Program and continued perfecting her technique through lab studies for 2 years. Ultimately, she received an investment from a large tech investment firm, allowing her to enter the packaging industry with her product. The plastic packages she developed enable products to be stored at room temperature for longer without spoiling. She has expanded her scope to include production of rejuvenating, herb-based bio-creams and tonics from olive pits. Her dream is to transform her business into a corporation that uses not only olive pits, but all bio-waste in Turkey to make plastic.

Garanti Bank’s Turkey’s Women Entrepreneur Competition
Turkey’s Woman Entrepreneur Who Has Created a Difference in Her Region 

Büşra Yapıcı

The origins of Büşra’s company date back to 2000, when she began working at the fertilizer company her husband established. The company was forced to close in 2008 due to the economic crisis, but a greenhouse that knew her from the fertilizer company hired her the following year. She began conducting R&D with tomato seeds, and in 2010 opened Petektar Tohum on 40,000m2 of land. Today she produces 15 types of tomato seeds, 7 types of pickle seeds, as well as watermelon, banana and squash seeds on 127,000 m2. The company currently meets 90 percent of Turkey’s pickle seed needs, and Büşra hopes to reach the same level for tomatoes, pepper, squash and watermelon. She is also aiming to make her business a global company, with representative offices abroad.

Garanti Bank’s Turkey’s Women Entrepreneur Competition
Turkey’s Woman Social Entrepreneur

Ece Çiftçi

SosyalBen Akademi, “the school of volunteering,” was established in 2015. At the Akademi, Ece offers volunteerism consultancy for both corporations and for students who are interested in social responsibility projects. Ece now has two corporate firms and seven private school clients. A social enterprise with an internal funding model, the aim of SosyalBen Akademi is to increase the rate of volunteering in Turkey and to be a role model for other NGOs and social entrepreneurs in the sector seeking sustainable options for their business models. She is also targeting making SosyalBen Akademi a 45 percent funder of her foundation, SosyalBen Foundation.