Sumana Sultana was a graduate student when she married. Her husband was jobless and she lost her family support for marrying him without their consent. So she was all on her own to bear the financial expenses, but what could she do? She had learnt embroidery work from her mother which she thought she could use now. She made four pillow covers and supplied them to fashion house Aarong. Two of the pieces were selected and she received order to make 80 more. But there was no capital. This time, her husband Monowar Hossain sold his pet pigeons to arrange for the money.
Sumana gave in her work before the deadline. After this, she received work orders worth Tk 80,000. She recruited two assistants to help her out. There was no looking back since then.
Later, she took several other women along with her. Over 15 years, she has trained 700 embroidery workers. The 37-year-old has been awarded as the National SME Woman Entrepreneur in Small Category this year. Coming from a remote area of Patulipara in Bhagura, Pabna, she is a well-known name in the district.
In a recent visit to her home, this correspondent found women working in the yard, the veranda and under the shade of trees. They were all busy with needles and thread. Workers from 10-12 villages in Pabna Sadar, Bhangura, Faridpur, Chatmohor upazila are involved in the work. These include garments, bed sheets, table cloths, pillow covers, and so on. Four fashion houses including Aarong sell her products.
"I'm progressing towards my future keeping my past in mind. I've worked hard from the beginning, did not compromise with quality and maintained my time," she said.
"I'm still doing the same thing. I don’t think investment actually is a thing, but it's one's mental strength, perseverance, honesty and hard work."
While continuing her annual work worth Tk 1.2-1.5 million, this undaunted woman completed her post graduate in biology from Government Edward College, Pabna too. Her flawless embroidery work paired with discipline has earned her reputation. She has set up a handicraft factory on the ground floor of her house. She and her husband own another factory in Radhanagar, Pabna. After the embroidery work is finished in the villages, the clothes are sewn, washed and ironed at the factories supervised by the couple at each phase.
Sumana has formed a team including 60 women workers in Chithulia village. Many of the women are housewives as well as students whose monthly income is Tk 2,500-3,000.
She not only works herself but also trains small entrepreneurs at various institutions, said Saiful Alam, president of Pabna Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Her achievement includes being a role model for many of them. "I've been working since apa has trained me. I don't fear my future anymore. I'll be an entrepreneur like her," a local seventh grade girl, Ankhi Khatun, said.
Sumana wants to expand her businesses by setting up show rooms while she has another dream. "I want to turn each village woman who is unemployed in my district to turn self-reliant."