Shahista Waheed grew up in the rural outskirts of Lahore. She has been interested in teaching since she was 15, when she spent her evenings after school tutoring younger children. When she was older, she taught classes at an independent academy.
Shahista first heard about the Urban Youth Project when her brother joined their training programme while setting up a mobile phone shop. Having seen how the training helped him develop an entrepreneurial mindset, Shahista was inspired to seek support with setting up a business of her own.
After acceptance onto the course, run by a British Asian Trust partner, Shahista was taught how to develop a business plan and how to manage and expand a business.
“At the training, they encouraged me to explore what I wanted to do – to make a plan and structure my thoughts. I thought about my interests.
Initially, Shahista approached the owner of the academy where she was teaching part time with a request to go into a partnership. The owner agreed and together they grew the business. However, she says that the training programme encouraged her to have the confidence to follow her dreams: “It made me realise that I could run my business differently – I could launch my own academy from home. It took me a year to put the plan together. I was given guidance throughout.”
Right from the start, Shahista faced difficulties: despite informal agreements, her former partner would not give her the details of any of her past students. Nevertheless, many of them chose to come and study with her. Over several months, she managed to build up her academy until she had a large group of local students – from nursery to 11th grade – and flexible staffing to accommodate them.
“I got the confidence from the training to believe in myself. I think my biggest achievement is starting this business myself and not being dependent on anyone else’s business or working for them.”
There is a lot of competition in the area, with two more tuition centres nearby, but Shahista has talent and ambition, and her resilience has undoubtedly been boosted by the skills she learned:
“The Urban Youth Project has been guiding me on business principles,” she says. “They showed me that I could teach two children at the same time paying rs200 each or spend the same amount of time, but with greater focus and dedicated energy from me, on one child paying rs500. So, I’ve recently locked my fee for nursery students at rs500 per child.
“The trainers at the project taught me how to better manage my time, by making a timetable, and they encouraged me to ask parents in for monthly meetings so they’d understand how involved I am with the progress of their child and their individual problems – which justifies the fee. Mothers feel content that I’m paying special attention to each child.”
Currently, Shahista has 33 students. She is confident about her business. “I will grow it slowly,” she says. “When I started at home, I had four children coming in and I worked hard with them. All four got first positions in their classes, and because of their recommendations I ended up teaching other students who knew them.”
The British Asian Trust launched the Urban Youth Enterprises Incubator in Pakistan with Citi Foundation in 2016 and continues to be funded under the Foundation’s Pathways to Progress programme. This business incubator, delivered by Lahore University of Management Sciences National Incubation Centre, supports the employment of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to build an entrepreneurial mindset, acquire leadership, financial and workplace skills and start to engage in the formal economy through a first job or through developing and growing a thriving business.