“I was determined to prove that I am capable of starting and running my own enterprise and have been successful in doing so.”
Jesmin Moosa has never backed down from achieving her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. This motivation to achieve her dream created the base for the rise of her enterprise
‘AJ Fashions’. Having run her business for 20 years, Jesmin mentions that although she took up sewing as a hobby, she did not plan on building an enterprise around it. She later decided to start AJ Fashions as a way to financially support her children and herself and began her business from her home with the support of 8 employees and 15 to 20 sewing machines. Jesmin currently employs 11 workers and conducts her business from a retail outlet.
The opportunity to pursue higher education is one that Jesmin received but was not able to follow. “I am A/L qualified and had the opportunity to attend university but was unable to do so due to certain cultural beliefs.” After committing to married life, Jesmin decided not to pursue her prior plans of higher education and instead pursued a diploma in sewing. This allowed her to develop her skill of sewing from the level of a hobby to the level of an enterprise. Products of AJ Fashions were sold to customers through online platforms for a period of six years before a retail outlet opened. “I learnt a lot as an entrepreneur in the last 20 years”. Jesmin mentions that the process of selling the clothes she sewed online helped her learn about her target market. She also started selling her products on the wholesale basis to Colombo and she was able to learn a lot through expanding her business in this way.
“I try my best to help society through my business and the profits I make.” Jesmin is not merely an entrepreneur. She is a pillar of strength to other women in society. Combining her skills in sewing and her love for helping others, she started a women’s welfare center. There are about 200 members of this welfare center including widows and women who face financial troubles in life. In addition to supplying clothing required for women of all ages, through this program Jesmin has also established an education fund, a cancer unit, an elders’ home, a children’s home and funeral fund for the members of the welfare center.
She further mentions that this entrepreneurial journey has not been easy or simple and that she has faced many challenges with regard to the industry, her gender and her cultural background. However, Jesmin has successfully overcome these challenges and has used them as opportunities to learn and grow. “There have been instances in which I have lost profits and fallen short, but I handled all of those situations and am now carrying out my enterprise happily and with a lot of motivation and ambition.”
Looking back at her progress so far, Jesmin credits part of the development of her enterprise to the support she received from Chrysalis. Prior to receiving support, she had to spend her personal earnings on the material and machinery she required for her enterprise. Furthermore, her dream of owning an embroidery machine became a reality with the grant she received from the ENTERPRISE project.
Jesmin hopes to continue developing AJ Fashions and is currently working towards her goal of expanding her workforce to 20 workers by 2023. In addition to her entrepreneurial goals, she is also enthusiastically expects to use her enterprise and her earnings to give back to society and uplift the lives of women while working towards achieving her ultimate goal of becoming one of the best female entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka.