“Creating an exciting design for my clients makes me so happy,” says Taslima Miji, CEO of Leatherina, the company she founded in 2016. Her signature brand, Gootipa, is now famous for its customised leather products, both in Bangladesh and international markets like Canada, Germany, Netherlands, and USA.
Taslima believes that Bangladeshi leathers are naturally high in quality, and through creative designs, her employees can create wonders with it.
She’s also determined to fight against the odds in her efforts for promoting Bangladeshi handicrafts and creating well-paying jobs. “My struggle was enormous at the beginning. People in the industry weren’t habituated to working with women who they saw instead as running boutiques or parlours. I had to fight those stereotypes,” explains Taslima.
Her journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur was even more difficult as she had shifted careers. After graduating with a degree in Sociology from University of Dhaka, she began working as a journalist. When she became a mother six years later, it was tough for her to continue working full-time. So, she started working on her own at times that were convenient to her. That’s when she founded Leatherina, whose factory at Hazaribagh, now employs more than 50 people, 60% of whom are women.
Like most small businesses, the pandemic came as a huge blow. But she was able to overcome that strategically by identifying a new need in healthcare-related products and adapting her business to producing pandemic essentials including face masks, headcovers and PPE. Taslima recalls that what she had learned from her training at Corporate Connect in the beginning of 2020 proved crucial in helping her build both strategic plans and confidence.
She sustained her business in the first phase of pandemic in 2020 by making pandemic essentials. Around September 2020, she resumed work with leather products as she got orders for bags and continued to grow revenues in her business. “Growing a sustainable business was a challenge where my learnings from the training of Corporate Connect became relevant. I’ve learnt to connect the outputs of networking and capacity building along with business pitching from the training,” Taslima quotes.