Hello & welcome to our Crowdfunder!
Thank you for being here :) We are Zohra & Freshta: best friends, mums & business partners from Afghanistan.
We have been working hard for the past 10 months to develop our occasional dress business, Rose & Samite. Rose & Samite will start out providing stunning, high quality and hard-to-find Afghani traditional, Nikah and bridal dresses right here in London. We are on a mission to provide our customers with dresses that reveal their unique beauty.
We are Businesswomen
We came here to the UK from Afghanistan to be free.
As women with dreams, we could not stand on our own two feet in Afghanistan. There was no security for us, and our opportunities were limited because of cultural and traditional rules.
Despite the limits imposed on women in Afghanistan, we always pursued business.
[Zohra] I studied medicine, one of the few professions women can pursue freely, and ended up working in my own dental practice. On the side, I ran a brick & mortar handicrafts business selling clothes, jewellery and semi precious stones. I was a hard worker and I wanted to be successful, I had my own standards of success. But it was extremely difficult. Sometimes I was happy to work all day and late into the evening, leaving work at 11pm- but it was physically dangerous and taboo for a woman to be outside that late, so I couldn’t make it home. I would duck into a family member’s house who lived closer to my work to stay the night.
[Freshta] I knew I could not work and succeed in Afghanistan, so I left home on my own and went to India to try and have a career. I was seeking better opportunities for myself than to rely on others to support me and live with the strings attached to that. I worked as a patient facilitator. I became a qualified business administrator and a beautician.
Life was challenging like this, not being able to move, work, or act freely. But the worst part was being judged and bullied for being industrious, hardworking, ambitious, for wanting to have something that was our own.
In our culture, “businesswoman” is not a good name. If you are to say “I am a businesswoman,” some people would judge, think you were not a good lady, that you are not a family woman. If hardworking, active and successful women advertised their mission or their success, or supported one another, they would be shamed- by family members, neighbours, and of course by the Taliban. Active women were regularly suppressed by the Taliban, even at the time they did not have so much power as they do today- they didn’t want other women to learn from her, didn’t want her to be seen as a role model.
Apart from being a daughter or wife, or a doctor, there are no other types of woman that could exist freely from shame, judgement, discrimination, intimidation and in many cases, violence.
In 2015, we made it to the UK to escape these oppressive forces. Here, we can say openly and proudly here: We are businesswomen. Our goal is to be independent and to thrive. And one day we will be role models for other Afghan women, and help Afghan women who have escaped like we did to find a way that they can thrive too.
New to the UK
At first, it was difficult. We had no network here. Although we understood the language, we still felt a language barrier. We were lonely and doubtful about whether anyone would be able to help us achieve our goals.
[Freshta] I started entrepreneurial projects right away here in the UK, launching my own catering & events business. But when the pandemic hit, I had to close the catering business. It was after that that Zohra & I decided to start a clothing business in 2021, which led us to Rose & Samite.
[Zohra] It took 1.5 years to have my status recognised. I had been a dentist, I had been a businesswoman, I had worked hard every day before. It was shocking to me to sit at home all the time and do nothing because I was not legally allowed to work, my activities were very restricted while seeking asylum. It was a very tough moment for me.
I did volunteer in a museum, because I love art and design. I helped with exhibition projects at the Sheffield Millennium Gallery. While volunteering they asked me to make them a replica of a 3,000 years old necklace, so that people could touch it instead of the original. The museum was so happy with my necklace, they asked me to make a second one!
After that I felt different, look finally I had done something! I was also introduced to so many artists, including a very famous painter Joe Scarborough. Just to be close to someone important, I thought…maybe I am important too? This was a very important moment for me. When I focused on these moments I could tolerate being an asylum-seeker.
I finally got my papers and began to rebuild my life here in the UK. I began a master programme in public health, because It’s important to me to be highly educated. And I was blessed in other ways, too- I got engaged.
Mind the gap
[Zohra] This is the moment I spotted the gap in the market of Nikah & Afghani traditional dresses. I could not find the special green Nikah dress that women wear in my culture anywhere near my home, so I had to order it online. I couldn’t check the quality or have it fitted, which made me very anxious because I had such limited resources to waste. And my anxiety was merited, because the dress that arrived in the post was awful. I felt like the worst dressed woman at my own wedding.
No woman should feel this way. And the more I spoke about it, people in my community agreed. They said, please bring traditional dresses here, it’s so hard for us to guess at the quality in a small picture, order from an unknown ecommerce site, wait a very long time for the questionable garment to arrive. Especially now that it is so dangerous to travel to Afghanistan, it’s even more difficult to obtain these dresses that are so crucial to milestone moments in our cultural life.
We had business experience, and we knew the suppliers personally from my business in Afghanistan. We have negotiated the purchase and shipment of key sample dresses from the famed Madina Market in Kabul where women come from all over the region to find their perfect dress.
Now there is an opportunity, after the pandemic as events are coming back, after Afghani’s are relocating to the UK and growing new roots here, to launch our business!
We need to purchase samples of 4 Afghani traditional dresses and 4 Nikah dresses from the suppliers we have located in Kabul, and have them shipped here to London so that we can ensure they meet our quality & design standards. These initial sample purchases will help us grow relationships with the right suppliers- that is what our original target of £1500 can help us do.
Our stretch target of £5,000 will give us some capital with which we can purchase dresses to build our inventory. Once we have a few dresses, we can start producing trunk shows and sample sales in the next 6 months and get the ball rolling.
Please support us to reach our goals- in the short term, to find the right supplier, and in the long term to start our business and become the businesswomen we are meant to be! Thank you so much for your time, attention & support!
You can follow us on Instagram @roseandsamite to stay up to date on our progress!