EMPOWERING WOMEN

Our purpose is to empower women through education.

From The Founder For Women's Day

When I was young, I always loved creating things. Transferring something in my mind to a beautiful product has always been the ultimate self-actualization. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I always wanted to do my own business as well. Later in life my passion for both creativity and commerce led me launch my own handbag line where I could fulfil both dreams.

However, the path to "doing what I LOVE" has not been that straightforward. Coming from a mother who actively educated women to leadership positions in politics, I learned the value of education from an early age. My urge for learning led me to the highest-rated school Bogazici University in Istanbul. I studied international trade, which laid the great foundations for the world of business. After spending months during my internship at Gillette analyzing the sale of men's razors, I realized that I need to be passionate about the product I sell. Thus, I ended up in fashion.

My first work experience in fashion was at an apparel company based in Istanbul which had shops in Paris. I loved travelling to the capital of fashion, Paris and working with a multinational team. My passion for brand development led me to my next job in one year. I started working with an Italian team in Florence, creating jeans. I was in charge of marketing and adored the creative process. The borders of Istanbul began to be too narrow for me. I have been fortunate to pursue my passion for design in Milan by joining a design school. I spent two years in Milan studying shoe design. It never occurred to me to design handbags at the time till I joined Burberry. It was the period of the boom of sales in bags for Burberry, and I have been part of a fascinating period at Burberry. Learning about the whole process of design till goods get into stores meeting the best manufacturers of leather and bags in the world gave me a great understanding of making a beautiful bag. A great product starts with excellent materials.

However, not having the right "sponsors" in corporate life did not allow me to accelerate fast enough in my career. I was good at getting things done, but I did not enjoy spending time on corporate politics. I wanted to move to the creative side; I wanted to do the things that I was genuinely passionate about. I decided to pursue an MBA at London Business School, thinking it would give me the edge and courage to start my own business. My entire focus has been entrepreneurship, and I started the bag business after getting the full support of LBS faculty, sponsorships, funding and awards.

The first three years in business have been the hardest. Proving yourself to the outside world has been a challenge. Not as much as cracking the route to market. In a world and industry where things change daily, it has been one of the biggest challenges. Business models changed in the speed of collections over the past couple of years. Challenges never ended. However, my education, experience, passion, and love for what I do still keep me going every day. It is possible to achieve every dream with these ingredients.

When I look back and ask myself, "Which ingredient has been the most influential in achieving my dreams? Would I be where I am today without the education I've got? Probably not." My belief in education is why we donate to top university scholarship funds every year. So far, our donations have enabled many women to study at London Business School and the University Of California. I believe that many more women need to come to leadership positions globally, and I would like to help other women achieve their dreams and be independent and confident women. 

In honour of international women's day, this year we will be donating 2% of our revenue from 8th to 13th March to London Business School Women's Scholarship Fund. 

Esin Akan

Founder at esinakan.com

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