Getting family behind a business venture

Jordanian woman becomes an entrepreneur with her husband's support

As Published in The Marketplace Magazine

By Dara Al Masri
My husband was my first customer”, says Intisar, a food entrepreneur selling pickles in an impoverished area in Jordan’s Balqa governorate, northwest of Amman.
To get to where she is today, Intisar had to get past a few barriers that usually stop women from entering the business world in Jordan. “I wanted to do something beneficial with my time,” says the 39-year-old mother of four.
She spent more than two weeks convincing her husband, Imad, to agree to let her register at a training for pickle making, business planning and basic accounting. “I explained to him the project’s details, that I will be with other women who are also learning with me, and that if there was no benefit, I would drop out,” she said.
The training was provided by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD).
Intisar heard about the opportunity through a friend who works there. The JOHUD program targets women and youth living in the Jordan valley to take part in the food processing value chain.
Intisar attended the first session and came back to her husband with excitement; “I told him that the project can help us register a business and he was immediately interested, seeing it was real and not just talk.”
Despite his reservations, Imad saw that Intisar was motivated and eager to learn. He finally gave her his support. “It is nice to see her filling her time, there is something she is busy with other than her usual housework,” he said.
“She is setting an example to our children,” he added, noting that Intisar’s project will also contribute to their family’s income.Intisars family JordanImad, Intisar and two of their children in their home
“My relationship with Imad changed, “Intisar said. “Our conversations have become deeper than topics about we will have for lunch or dinner. We started talking about the challenges I am facing, my 
finances, and my customers. There is something new to talk about.”

Her first challenge was being able to find people willing to buy her jars of pickles. Finding clients is the main issue women and youth face when entering the food processing sector in Jordan.
Training is funded by Global Affairs Canada and MEDA’s Jordan Valley Links (JVL) Project. It aims to provide women like Intisar and youth living in the Jordan Valley with the required knowledge and skills to operate environmentally sustainable and gender equitable businesses, to increase their access to finance, and to gain the community’s support. For Intisar, the community’s point of view towards her changed.
“Any woman who is working and doing something useful in her life is looked at differently, she said. “I don’t think that people look at a stay home mother the same way they do at a woman who earns a living; especially that I made something out of nothing.”Intisar's produce, including cucumber pickles, stuffed eggplants and olivesIntisar's produce, including cucumber pickles, stuffed eggplants and olives photos by Dara Al Masri
After registering as a home-based business, Intisar spent two Jordanian Dinar — about $2.84 US — to buy cucumbers and pickle them to test what she learned during the training. “I now know how to pasteurize the pickles and realized that using iodine-free salt is better for pickling,” she said.
Her first batch of pickles sold yielded six-dinars.
Currently, she sells pickle jars worth 120 Jordanian Dinar — just over $169.30 USD — in one week.
“The project helped me a lot. I started going out twice a week to attend sessions and accompany my husband to buy jars and vegetables,” she said.
Imad was the one going to the market and buying whatever he felt they needed. “Now, I have a say in the household’s needs and my husband consults me.”
The new entrepreneur sells her pickles to schools, teachers, and shop owners.
“My children come to me for pocket money,” Intisar said proudly, happy that she is reducing the financial burden on her husband. “My children started helping me to organize the vegetables. Our family has come closer together.”
Intisar is among the more than 1,100 women and youth in Balqa who have registered and benefited from the sessions MEDA JVL facilitated. Intisar is hoping to further expand her business and one day open a factory for pickling. ◆
Dara Al Masri is a marketing & communications specialist for MEDA’s Jordan Valley Links project.