Karbala’s entrepreneurs show us a side of the city that provides a differing narrative from its religious significance. Driven largely by students, these creative businesses in Karbala are fulfilling a need among youth for artistic expression and cheaper alternatives to mainstream options.
Now, as the rest of Iraq’s entrepreneurship sector grows, Karbala is in the midst of this development with the youth leading the way.
Three friends Haitham, Muhaemn, and Ali always wanted to create things that express their personalities. They wanted to stand out as individuals with very unique interests.
The protests in Iraq, which began in early October, gave birth to Bursippa. It inspired the founders to design products that show their pride in being Iraqis. The three founders used the symbols of the revolution to create unique items.
The October revolution made us all feel alive in many different ways”Haitham, Muhaemn, and Ali, Founders of Bursippa
The team currently sells badges and stickers and are planning to expand their inventory to provide more quirky items targeted towards youth. The majority of Bursippa customers are based in Karbala, but orders are received from across the country.
Dentistry student Zaynab always wanted to share her fabric painting skills with people who appreciate art. Her talent for creating artistic designs is a way for people to express themselves with customised attire.
She launched Art on Clothes in Karbala with the help of her friend, Mohammed. She hopes to spread her art across Iraq and launch her own clothing brand.
Loving art and drawing inspired me to start my business.Zaynab, Founder of Art on Clothes
Iraqis Home is a homemade food startup launched by student, Widyan. Created from a need for meal alternatives closer to the home and heart, Iraqis Home provides traditional and affordable Iraqi food from the grill to the door.
“There are a lot of students and employees who can’t afford to keep ordering food from restaurants. They get bored of eating restaurant food and want homemade food more than anything else.”
“We make people feel as if they’re eating at home, without the effort of cooking.”
Sima Sarmad launched Candy’s Lady at the age of 19, providing a range of desserts from her Karbala store. Sugary delights such as donuts and cakes are all made with love and customised for special occasions.
The main aim of my project is self-reliance, supporting women, and bolstering products made in Iraq.Sima Sarmad, Founder of Candy’s Lady.
Now 21, Sima aims to raise awareness about women in the workforce and how to support youth who want to start their own projects in her community.
Stickers Store creates eccentric paintings and stickers with different shapes and designs. University student and founder Hussein Khaled Salman always wanted to start his own business.
“I started thinking about the business when I was browsing Instagram and came across similar projects in other countries. This inspired me to launch my startup. I saw a lot of young Iraqi people accepting it, and loving the idea. The purpose of launching this project was to invest my free time in positive things.”
It is noticeable that most of these businesses in Karbala are run by Iraqi students with a creative passion for designing items not commonly found in the country. What is most interesting is the theme of the revolution that has inspired businesses like Bursippa to launch.
Career opportunities in Iraq’s creative industries are minimal due to the lack of funding in this sector. The number of creatives outnumber the creative jobs offered by the private sector. Even where jobs are available, the salaries do not always match the level of talent. However, these businesses in Karbala have capitalised on their artistic skills by creating beautiful and unique products and selling them across Iraq.
This is a viable option for other creatives struggling to find work. Instagram is the most popular marketing and sales platform to gain popularity among Iraqi youth and communicate with buyers. This is evident among youth-led businesses in Karbala, Najaf, Baghdad and more.
Additionaly, we are seeing the homemade food movement gain some traction in the South. The foodtech industry is largely untapped in Iraq (aside from food and grocery delivery), yet it is a no-brainer. Startups like Iraqis Home not only provide an income opportunity for stay-at-home mothers, it also fulfills the never ending need of good quality, homemade Iraqi food. Homemade food startups will easily flourish across the country if they’re able to appropriately utilise technology for online orders and delivery.
Tell us your favourite business in the comments below!